How many shades of heather does one person hold?

I mean heather as in an oyster color. I didn’t want to use “shades” and the g-word in my title as I’m already disappointing scores of Google searchers who are here due to a shoe fetish.

I am currently in the process of trying to make a HYOOGE life decision. In my head, which is a strange place, nothing can move forward (like buying a new house in a better school district or signing up for the GRE) until the decision is 100% made and zipped up in the irrevocable decision box.

I pride myself on being able to see all sides of most issues. If you need a Devil’s Advocate, I’m your woman. (Do you ever wonder if the devil really needs advocates? If yes, and it’s a high paying position, I’d like to put in my resume.) (Call me, Lucifer!)

But, if the issue is something the directly impacts me (not my kid or my family or friends), there is only black or white.

I had the opportunity to spend an hour on the phone with a Life Coach (hi Marste!) and outlined my two choices. (BTW – this is something I highly recommend. I cannot speak positively enough about how wonderful that hour was.)

After talking about what it would mean to not choose the Big Change and finding out that I am remarkably mature and insightful (paraphrase), I also found out that maybe I don’t have to make it a Big Choice all at once. I can keep on living my life as I move towards the center.

As I was talking about what I do with my time, I prefaced a lot of what I was saying with “I might be crazy” because I get told that sometimes. I’m busy. I work a pretty intense job (actually, two currently), I write (not as much as I think I should), I’m training for a half ironman, I have an almost-three-year-old, and a husband, and a few friends. I’m starting dance classes next week and I am, with the help of Rosetta Stone, teaching myself Swedish. I’m co-chairing a cookbook project for an online group I’m in. I’m working on a research project and eventual paper and maybe presentation  with someone who makes me look like a lazy slacker (love you, PSM!).

I am trying to do more things that scare me (see above re: dance class).

I am trying to travel more (see you soon, Chicago!), write more, be more. I am all about more.

I’m seldom about less, unless you’re talking about less social interaction. Then I’m all about the less.

I don’t really know how to do less and stay functional. If you gauge busy on a scale of 1-10, my preference for optimal life-satisfaction and productivity is right around an eight.

If I’m not full up, then there is room for discord and anxiety and those creeping little thoughts that are not helpful.

However, after the hour with Marste, I committed to try to find a center and to seek my balance in something different from left-braining with intensity all day and right-braining with equal intensity the rest of the time.

I am going to look for small steps and resist the go big or go home attitude.  I can be full without running full-tilt at whatever the next Big Choice is. Theoretically. (When I decided that the next Big Choice was a baby, I devised spreadsheets, created optimal timelines, charted ALL sorts of things, created a super secret blog about conception and then pregnancy, and read every book I could get my hands on. I won at pregnancy up through the positive result on the pregnancy stick. THEN the variable introduced into my planning made everything else go haywire.)

There’s only one real problem with this. I’m not sure how to look at the heater-colored spaces between. I might need a live-in life coach (note to self: add that line to the sister-wife job description currently posted) to give me more feedback on a daily basis.

My goal though, as always, is to feel good about the decisions I’ve made and completely own them. And also to be completely badass.

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Book Reviewsday!

Because it rhymes with Tuesday? And I thought I could maybe make it a thing?

 

I am a huge fan of my PSM‘s book reviews, partially because they often come with recipes for things that I want someone to make me. It’s not that I’m not gifted in the kitchen (because oh, can I turn up the heat in there!) it’s just that cooking and/or baking is not currently a priority in my life.

So, this is not going to be a PSM-level review. I’m just not that girl. However, I do like to read AND write AND write about things I’ve read, so you’re just going to have to accept that. (Or, alternatively, close the browser. Whatever.)

(Also, if you’re even in need of sending me gifts but don’t know where to start: it’s here. THERE IS A MOUNTED UNICORN HEAD! WHY DON’T I HAVE ONE OF THOSE!)

Sooooo – book review!

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What’s it all about?

In this outspoken and much-praised memoir, the highest-ranking woman in American history shares her remarkable story and provides an insider’s view of world affairs during a period of unprecedented turbulence. A national bestseller on its first publication in 2003, Madam Secretary combines warm humor with profound insights and personal testament with fascinating additions to the historical record.

Initial Thoughts

I might be a little bit in love with Secretary Albright. (Since I’d also said something similar about Margaret Atwood after reading her Negotiating With the Dead, it’s possible that I might have a thing for women of a certain age – and that age is about 40 years older than me.)

This book primarily focused on her time as Ambassador to the UN (Clinton’s first term) and Secretary of State (Clinton’s second term), but did start off with her childhood, college years, marriage, children, divorce, and jobs that she held through the years.

You guys, Madeleine Albright is kind of amazing. She got married immediately after graduating college, had a bunch of kids (three), and still pushed her way through a PhD in 1975 (when her twins were 15 and she was 38 – the age I am RIGHT NOW).

She was divorced in the early 80s (because her husband was, and this is NOT a quote, a philandering douche-canoe) and after a period of feeling lost, she rose from the ashes like a fucking phoenix and became even more badass.

Jean Grey wishes she were as awesome Madeleine Albright.

Quotable Notes

Okay – so I have a small problem here. I listened to this instead of read it, and accidentally deleted all my bookmarks so I only have my memory of my favorite bits. This is, therefore, not Notable Quotes and is instead random memories.

Secretary Albright went on a trip with Larry Pressler (R-SD, former) and he was an idiot. This does not surprise me, but it made me cringe a bit since I am formerly from South Dakota and hate when our elected officials are dumb. Even after repeatedly being told that the phones were bugged and the cars were bugged, he kept saying things about meeting with members of the resistance. He would be a terrible spy.

When speaking of Javier Solana (the former Secretary-General of NATO) she described him as bearded and brainy, and then said (and this is pretty close to the quote): “He may have been a physicist, we sure had chemistry.”

At one point while Secretary of State, she choreographed (and I’m assuming starred in) a parody of West Side Story with the Russian contingent at the annual Association of SouthEast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) conference in 1998. Apparently such performances were apparently normal at this event, but I would still pay money to see Albright and then-Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov sing a duet together.

In conclusion

This book was amazing. I’d read (well, listened to Madeleine Albright read) it in tandem with reading Gloria Steinem’s memoir Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions and  finished that period of my life full of feminist outrage and woman-power vigor. Out of the two, though, I prefer Madeleine.

Her story was so inspirational, and listening to her read it was an amazing experience. She is brilliant (in addition to her degrees, she speaks four languages fluently and is literate in at least two others – which not incidentally is my new life goal) and smart. She was the first female US Secretary of State and, at the time, the highest ranking woman in the US government in history. She moved through the Clinton presidency weathering political scandals (uhhh – it was Clinton), personal bombshells (she found out around the time of her swearing-in as Secretary of State that not only were her parents ethnic Jews (she’d never known) but that 3/4 of her grandparents had perished in concentration camps during the Holocaust. It’s odd to me that this became a scandal, but there you have it), and some crazy international issues (there are too many to list here, but in her eight years serving the Clinton presidency, there was the Black Hawk/Somalia incident, Rwandan genocide, the bombing of the embassy in Nairobi, as well as the civil wars, unrest, and genocide in Eastern Europe).

What appealed to me most, beyond the fact that she is intelligent, powerful, and inspiring (and can reportedly leg press 400 lbs), is that she is unexpectedly funny and a little bit salty.  (My favorite quote from the book was in response to Cuba shooting down two civilian airplanes outside of Cuban airspace, “This is not cojones. This is cowardice.”

The audiobook was long (24 1/2 hours) but it was worth every second.

Verdict

Madeleine Albright is awesome. Star_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_Claim

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Missed It

I have a ridiculously weird memory. I can remember all sorts of things in very great detail and generally lacking even a nodding acquaintanceship with useful information.

You need names and dates and locations of people involved in something that happened 1 or 5 or 20 or 100 or 1000 years ago? Give me a couple context cues and a few minutes and I can pull it out of the vault.

I can remember every grant name, accounting number, title, and budget that’s come through my administrative hands over the last seven years.

I know what day that meeting was on and who was there, even if that meeting was three jobs (and 11 years) ago.

Things I am TERRIBLE at remembering are the things that are actually useful (unless we’re gauging useful by ‘winning pub trivia,’ then my ability to call up random facts is really helpful). Things like what face goes with what name. (I was in a meeting today with a woman who looked vaguely familiar. I watched her surreptitiously for a while, trying to place her. Even after I heard her name, I couldn’t figure it out. Finally, one hour in I realized that I’d actually interviewed her. On Monday of this very week.) And when people with whom I’m currently actively associated with have important dates. You want to know when all my college friends have birthdays? I’m your girl. You want to know when my (hypothetically speaking) nieces’ birthdays are? March *mumble* and May *mumble*.

Where am I going with this, you might ask?

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my father’s death and it didn’t even register until someone I know mentioned on facebook that today was the anniversary of her mother’s death.

I didn’t think of it once yesterday.

I’d thought of it several times in the last month. His death and Bean’s birth are inextricably tied up in my brain so this time of year triggers that memory. But yesterday? Nothing.

My first feeling on realizing this was one of relief. The pain has dulled enough that it’s not always in the forefront of my brain. The second feeling? Guilt. For forgetting and then being relieved that I’d forgotten.

He’s always present – just not as much as he used to be.

I still miss him, though, and always will. I’m just less angry/sad/bewildered by the hole he left behind.

And I guess that’s okay.

A rare winter trip back - dad's sixtieth birthday

A rare winter trip back – dad’s sixtieth birthday

 

Book Review! The Secret

Okay, so first I need you to know that I am fancy. Legitimately, excruciatingly, wonderfully fancy. You should probably genuflect at your computer screen right now.

Done? Good.

So – I got an ARC of Elizabeth Hunter’s The Secret (third in her Irin Chronicles series).

It arrived on February 25, i.e. the day after my birthday. Obviously Elizabeth (we’re totally on a first name basis) did that purposefully because she wanted me to have an even more awesome birthday that I’d already been having (two cakes!).

It took me approximately…a day to finish. Because that is how I roll. I then proceeded to taunt Cat (who is actually a faster reader than me, but lost this round of “who can finish the book the fastest”) about my doneness.

Before I get started with my review, I need to tell you a funny little anecdote.

There are two main characters, Ava and Malachi. Now, if you are a normal person, you likely pronounce Malachi as MAL-uh-kigh. Perhaps, if you’re crazy (or Irish, according to the interwebs) you go with MAL-uh-key.  

Not me! My dad always referred to the prophet Malachi (minor prophet, Old Testament) as Muh-LAH-chee the Italian prophet, and now I am incapable of pronouncing it any other way. Sorry, Elizabeth.

OMG – that’s a lot of words and I haven’t even gotten to the review yet!

The Blurb

Only when the darkness falls can you see the light of the stars.

For thousands of years, the scribes and singers of the Irin race have existed to protect humanity and guard the gifts of the Forgiven. They have lived in the shadows. They have kept their secrets.

But the Irin aren’t the only race with secrets.

Ava and Malachi have found each other, but wounds as deep as theirs don’t heal overnight. While the Irin world struggles to correct the power imbalance left by the Rending of the Irina, Malachi and Ava struggle to connect their past with their present.

The Fallen may scheme, but Ava has found her power and refuses to be an angel’s pawn. And while Malachi may have forgotten his history, the scribe’s relentless search for answers leads both him and his mate to the heart of the Irin power structure in Vienna, where knowledge is guarded more closely than gold and those with power will do anything to keep it.

Malachi and Ava have survived the darkness, but will they ever discover its secrets? A powerful cabal of the Fallen may hold the answers, but to surrender them, it wants the Irin race to finally face their enemies. Both those coming from the outside, and those raging within.

The Cover

The cover is a link

The cover is a link

The Review

Okay – first off I have to say that my first feeling upon finishing this book was disappointment.

I. Was. Disappointed.

BUT (come back, Elizabeth! We can still be besties!) that disappointment was because this really does end the arc for Muh-LAH-chee (I CANNOT HELP MYSELF!) and Ava. That makes me sad. I want to know more!

The second feeling (I’m making an open-faced sandwich here; or a sandwich with the delicious cheese on the bottom, the meat of criticism in the middle, and a tiny layer of…deceptively positive…avocados? on top.  this metaphor was long, unwieldy, and poorly constructed.) was a gut stab of irritation/chagrin about a referenced sexual assault. This was due to outside influences, and on further review, I’ve decided that the referenced assault furthered the story and helped develop the characters, and did not detract at all from the plot or main character development. So, my criticism-meat was very, very thin. And probably did not even need to be mentioned.

Now for the cheese portion of my sandwich. (Cheese is my favorite and so is the best part of any review.)

As I stated in my cover reveal post, my intro to Ms. Hunter (I’m being all formal again until she forgives me for my sandwich metaphor) was with this series and I loved Ava and the Italian (he’s not Italian) since the first pages.

The chemistry they build together was not shattered in this last installment. The way they had to rebuild, in fact, in the wake of their [forced] separation and weird amnesia issues seemed natural – as much as anything like that could be.

Finding out all the fun secrets (oh, I wonder where that title came from?) about Ava’s past and my desire to kick certain members of her family in anatomically sensitive places kept me up past my bedtime.

I love the world-building that Elizabeth has done, both in this series and in her others. She is a master of magical realism, unlike some others that I’ve recently read, and having sorted though a lot of dreck lately makes me appreciate even more how well she wields a pen.

The other thing I really *really* appreciate is that Ava doesn’t cease to be her own person when she enters a relationship. In fact, I’ve seen no evidence that any of Elizabeth’s characters do that. She writes – GASP – strong female characters.

There are a lot of characters, but they are so nuanced that it’s not a problem to keep track of each of the more prominent ones as well as their various personalities. The best part about that? It makes me feel that there could be (read: NEED TO BE) more books in this particular world.

The Verdict

Love. Lots of it. I love this book and this series almost as much as I love everyone’s favorite Hawaiian shirt wearing Welsh vampire.

Okay, maybe I have TWO favorite Hawaiian-shirt-wearing vampires.

So go! Buy it! Buy the whole series!

And when you’ve finished it, buy everything else Elizabeth Hunter has ever written. You will not be sorry. Unless you spend all of your money and end up in a van down by the river with nothing but books for company. (Actually, except for the van part, that doesn’t sound so bad.)

Edited to add the WHERE to buy information:

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Three Things Thursday – Sadface edition

1. We have entered that time of the year that is budget season. I was so sure I was ahead of the game this year. And then I opened one of the many source spreadsheets that I use and found that in fact, all the work I’d done earlier this week is missing. Did I not save? That seems unlikely. WHERE ARE YOU BUDGET NUMBERS?

This is how I feel about that.

This is how I feel about that.

 

2. As I was leaving for work, my phone notified me that my friend Cromer had shared a post from Terry Pratchett. This did not surprise me, as that has happened before. In fact, Cromer is the person who first introduced me to Pratchett and therefore is responsible for the sheer amount of money I have spent attempting to own various pieces of Discworld. When I got out of my car I went to see what new and exciting news there was from Sir Pratchett.

It was a death announcement.

It is not terribly unexpected. Sir Pratchett had Alzheimer’s and last year had to pull out of public appearances due to the progression of the disease. But still. (I read Still Alice last week and that made me ugly cry into my Friday night beer. I spent Saturday at a conference where many of the speakers talked about Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. And this is real life. Sadness.)

I love the worlds created by Sir Pratchett, but I will always have a top spot reserved for my first introduction to his (and to Neil Gaiman’s) writing.

I don’t know where this came from and I don’t care. Someone make this happen. But maybe Hiddleston and Tennant?

 

3. I feel a little drained today. A book I’m listening to said that (and I’m totally going to screw up this quote) “everyone has a graveyard inside them. For most people it’s filled with friends and family.” For some reason this really is kicking me in the feels today. (It went on to say that military people, especially special ops peeps, have friends and enemies, and occasionally innocent bystanders in theirs.  This is not my typical genre, but ummm…Luke Daniels is my favorite and I would listen to him read the phone book.) I am tired (Bean is STILL NOT SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT! Does anyone want a three-year-old?) and sore (had a personal training appt at my new gym last night and apparently my right hip is an asshat) and anxious (stress + lack o’ sleep + not picking up that refill for oh…three weeks….) and I am running out of emotional spoons.

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I need a couple days to recharge. I’m sure there are other people out there who need nearly complete solitude to get back to themselves. So those of you with families (I love my architect and my Bean!) how do you make that work? Do you just keep on trucking and ignore the missing pieces? Or do you take that time and ignore the guilt because it’s what you need to be an effective partner and parent? (I have a week off in early May and am trying to decide what to do with myself.)