Thursday, June 9, 2016

That voice!

Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about two years, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, I chose the topic: Write a tribute to a musician or band.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

After this week, our blog project group is taking some time off for the summer. I'll still be blogging, but on any topic of my choosing at any time I want. :)

Back in 2004, I bought the soundtrack to Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. There was one voice on there that stood out to me...Jamie Cullum. He was singing a cover of "Everlasting Love." (If you need to get your Colin Firth fix, the link is to a music video from the movie.) A few years later, I started listening to his music more frequently. I can't get enough of his voice. It has an edge to it and yet is so relaxing to listen to. I added all his songs on Spotify to my favorites list and made a Pandora channel based on his music, where he shows up every few songs (interspersed with other singers who have similar styles). I ended up getting his Twentysomething CD, which I listen to in the car when I'm not listening to Hamilton. It helps me get through stressful driving situations and generally puts me in a good mood. Speaking of Hamilton though, through the fan group I created, I recently connected with a woman who worked with Jamie Cullum. That puts me one degree away from him! She said he's really nice, which I'm not surprised about. I'd love to hear him perform in concert. The last time he was out here, the timing didn't work. I hope he'll be back soon though. In the meantime, here are some songs of his that I especially love. Happy listening!



"Mind Trick"

"All at Sea":

"These are the Days":

"Next Year Baby":

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How lucky we are...

There's a line in a song from Hamilton that goes "How lucky we are to be alive right now." I recently saw someone post about how it applies to being alive at the same time as Lin-Manuel Miranda so we can experience this incredible musical (even though the only way I'm doing it so far is through the soundtrack). I definitely agree with that sentiment!

That got me thinking about other reasons I feel lucky to be alive right now vs. a different time period.

*Walt Disney World came about in 1971. If I had been a kid in a different era, I wouldn't have been able to experience it when I was young. I know Disneyland was established in 1955, but it's not like I've ever been to California anyway.

*"Rocky Horror" came out a year before I was born. Had I been a teen/young adult prior to that time, I wouldn't have gotten to enjoy it during my college years.

*Dentistry has made many advancements and dentists seem nicer and gentler than I heard of them being when my parents were kids. (My mom still hates going to the dentist.) I'm glad my kids have had only positive visits to the dentist. And that my dentist was able to fix my tooth when I broke part of it a few years ago. It looks like nothing ever happened to it. I'm sure back in the day, that wouldn't have been so easy!

My younger son at his first dental checkup

*Technology! I am glad I can type everything on a computer and be able to erase my mistakes without having to insert a whole new piece of paper into a typewriter each time. I'm also glad the Internet is around or I wouldn't have been able to connect with some amazing people. I also think cell phones have their advantages. If I had not had a cell phone on the night my car got stuck in the snow, it would have been a lot harder to work things out for getting a ride home. (The Internet was helpful in that situation, as well!)

*Cochlear implants exist. Had I given birth 40 plus years ago, my kids would not have had this amazing miracle to help with their hearing loss. From what I've heard, even hearing aids weren't as user friendly back in the day.

*I grew up in the 80s and 90s. This was a time of amazing pop culture in terms of movies, music, television, fashion, etc.

*Books: I am not a fan of classic literature, so I don't know that I'd enjoy books in a different era, even if that was the only option. I know I wouldn't have V.C. Andrews to keep me sane during my pre-teen and teen years. (Or The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High before that.) And, of course, chick lit wouldn't have been around yet. (And I don't consider Jane Austen to be chick lit. Sorry!)

*There's been a lot of progress recently, even with all the craziness in the world. I know it will always be two steps forward, two steps back, but things have changed a lot from even when my parents were my age. Whether it is marriage rights, accessibility for people with disabilities, an African American President, or a female Presidential nominee, I think a lot of this has to do with the Internet and how it opens a new venue for people to speak out on issues and push for change.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Book Review: The Golden Son

You may remember in 2014 when I read Shilpi Somaya Gowda's debut novel, Secret Daughter, and compared her writing to Khaled Hosseini's. (If you don't, click on the above link to see my review.) Just as I loved Hosseini's second novel even more than his first, the same applies to The Golden Son. (It even had a similar feel to A Thousand Splendid Suns at times.) If I had no real life responsibilities, I would have finished this book in one sitting. It was that hard to put down!

The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities.

Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Everything about this book was just beautifully written, making me feel sympathy toward all the characters (except the villainous ones). It was so interesting to see Anil's lifestyle in Texas in comparison to what Panchanagar (his village in India) was like whenever he returned for a visit or whenever I saw what was going on with Leena. I don't know much about medicine, but reading about how grueling Anil's residency was made me never want to become a doctor. (And I give doctors even more kudos after reading this novel.) The dynamics and dialogue between characters felt so realistic that every scene jumped off the pages and into my head. Gowda uses descriptions that bring people and places to life without detracting from the narrative, which is what I prefer in the books I read. Even a day or so after putting down the book for the final time, I can't get it out of my head.

I would have liked more of Leena's side of the story in the last part of the book, as most of the focus stayed on Anil's narrative at that point. I just liked reading her "voice," as well.

While I read that this story took Gowda five years to write, I hope she doesn't take as long to come up with her next masterpiece. I'll be eagerly awaiting its arrival on my bookshelf.

I think this would definitely be great as a movie, but I'm not sure who I'd cast. I'd love to see it on the big screen though!

Disclosure of Material Connection:
Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The minority in the house

Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about two years, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, Moma Rock chose the topic: What were you taught to believe, that you don't believe anymore? Or, the flip side: What had you never believed to be true, and now you do?

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

I think this week's topic is payback for last week's topic being so easy. I really couldn't think of anything in relation to the questions. I switched the "flip side" question around a bit to suit this post though, by saying "What had you believed to be true, and now you don't?" So here goes...

When I was growing up, and even as an adult, I believed that I would only be a mother to girls. Since my house was on a 3:1 Woman (girl): Man ratio, I thought it meant that I would only be capable of giving birth to girls. I couldn't even fathom raising a boy! Even at Sunday School, when we did a pretend wedding, I was annoyed that they made me be the mother of the groom, since I had no need for such a role in the future. I even had the name for my first daughter picked out...Arianna.

Then my turn at motherhood came around and with it came a boy. The strange thing is, I had a feeling that I would have a boy after I first became pregnant. I was in denial because I thought there was still no way that could happen. "Baby Girl" by Sugarland was playing on the country station I always listened to, so I even took that as a sign. Even so, when my first son was born, I was not surprised he was a boy. And it didn't matter at that point because it was love at first sight.

A couple of years later, I was due with my second child and this time I was convinced I was having a girl. I wanted another boy though. I loved the idea of my son having a brother and I also wanted to use the name I loved so much. Lo and behold, I was definitely surprised by a boy. Thrilled too!

Raising boys is easier than I expected. (Although I did have a preview because of the two boys I babysat on a regular basis when I was a teenager.) They are definitely full of energy and would do things I could never imagine doing as a kid, or as an adult. They're curious, inquisitive, thoughtful, and loving. I get the sweetest hugs and kisses from my sons. (Not to say I don't get them from my daughter.) They're also funny and entertaining. They love to make up songs and do celebrity impressions. We talk about movies, TV shows, books, games, current events, etc. They aspire to be artists, chefs, scientists, gardeners, actors, musicians, etc. They read (almost) as much as I do. (Given that my husband barely ever reads, it's nice to see boys taking an interest in books.)

On the third go-around, I finally had a girl. By that time, I was expecting a boy and had saved all the clothes from my sons. My older son wished for a girl so that I wouldn't be the only girl in the house. He even said he had too many brothers. (I guess my younger son is several brothers rolled up into one.) I told him that if I had another boy, I could keep all my jewelry and cosmetics to myself. My daughter holds her own with her brothers and bosses them around as much as they boss her around. It's definitely a new world of interesting challenges raising a girl. And here I thought they'd be the easier gender...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A No-Brainer

Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about two years, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

Last week (I wasn't around to write then), Darwin Shrugged chose the topic: Write about a trait you find attractive in others. In can be a physical trait or a personality trait.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

As soon as I saw this topic, I knew what I was going to write about. I didn't even have to think about it! Weirdly enough, Moma Rock chose the same trait. Great minds.... (Side note: I didn't read her post while I was writing this, so this is all original material.)

I think it's crucial to have a good sense of humor if you want me to find you attractive. Notice I said "good" before "sense of humor." Anyone can be funny in their own way, but if I don't find them funny, it's hard for me to feel that connection. Also, having a common bond over what you find funny is important. Let's put this in terms of celebrities. There's a comedic actress whose last name rhymes with "humor." I find it ironic because I don't think she is funny at all. I know it's not just me, as my husband agrees, and some other people have replied to a previous post about her stating the same. However, I think Mindy Kaling is hilarious and she'd totally crack me up if we hung out. (If I could even be in the same room with her without passing out from star-struck excitement.) 

When I was dating, whether it was casual or with a marriage-minded focus, sense of humor was one of the top traits I looked for in a boyfriend or potential husband. If you can make me laugh, that's major brownie points. I'm always telling my husband he should be a comedian, but he tells me that I'd have to clone myself to fill the audience. My friends think he is funny, and he makes our kids laugh all the time. So it's not just me there either. We have sooooo many inside jokes. I write them down to keep track of them. Some have been long-running over many years, perhaps since we started dating. Others have just sprouted up recently. Sometimes the two of us laugh together so hard that we can't see straight. So it's not always just him making me laugh, but us also sharing in things we find funny together. We love going to comedy shows and we usually agree on which comedians are the best and which ones tanked. I could go on and on about how much I love my husband's sense of humor and our shared beliefs in what is truly funny. Most recently, when we were on vacation, our kids were playing this bean bag toss game. He was taking videos of them and our older son said "I got one hundred points!" in a really funny way. He kept playing the video over and over and we were laughing so much. 

There are some friends I share a sense of humor with and I'd like to give a shout-out to a few. It doesn't mean I don't think you're funny if I don't give you a shout-out. I like having a lot of friends with whom I can laugh over various things. Some are naturally funny and make me laugh. Others are just fun to bond with over humorous things. If we haven't laughed together, either you or I might have to start worrying....

*Moma Rock: We have yet to meet in person and have only Skyped once, but we have this humor connection going strong through our e-mails and Facebook messages. We can freely talk about poop without grossing each other out. Whenever I get spam comments on my blog, I share them with her and we make sarcastic comments about them. We also like a lot of the same comedy shows, like Arrested Development and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

*Jen Tucker (a.k.a. the Chick Lit Cheerleader over at my book blog): When I first read her book, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out, I knew we were destined to be friends. I was crying from laughing so hard at this one part in her book. She's always finding ways to crack me up and she has such a fun and positive spirit all the time. We share in our repulsion of creepy floaty things in our tea.

*M.A.: A friend in my community who shares my initials (our maiden name initial is the same too, oddly enough). We're always sending each other funny memes and articles about motherhood. Our youngest kids are the same age, so we definitely relate on that level. She's just very easygoing and we have fun laughing together. One time, we got lost going to the movie theater (and even getting home), but it was fun to laugh about it with her. 

*T.L.: A friend who one day wrote "I ate a sandwich" on her Facebook status because she knew it would crack me up. We find other fun things to laugh about too. I try to make her laugh whenever possible, and I usually succeed.

*M.S.: An online friend who isn't afraid to send me offensive jokes because she knows I'll find them funny and won't get mad. I think we try to out-offend one another! I've been busy and need to get back on track with sending her funny stuff.

Here are some other friends with whom I have inside jokes. (Of course, I mentioned my husband there too.)

What do you find most attractive about another person?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

In her very stylish and (probably) comfortable shoes

Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about two years, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, Froggie chose the topic:  "The grass is always greener on the other side."

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

When Froggie gave us this topic, the first thing that came to mind was my sister, so I'm going to talk about her for purposes of explaining this quote.

While my sister and I are alike in some ways, such as sharing common interests in movies, books, Broadway shows, etc., we're also the opposite in other ways. Sometimes I think we'd make a great chick lit novel about sisters with completely different lives. Kind of like Your Perfect Life or In Her Shoes. I am not implying that I don't want what I already have, but I do want to point out that my sister has it really good. Here are some reasons:

*She looks good in all her clothes and she's always getting the latest fashions. She's not afraid to shop retail. It's like the traveling pants phenomenon...whatever she looks at somehow fits her perfectly.

These are not her actual shoes.
I'm just illustrating a point.
*The same goes for shoes. She has smaller feet than I do and can fit in nice looking shoes and probably not get blisters. She can even wear heels.

*She gets to work from home. This means she could wear her pajamas all day long and no one would know unless she had a video conference.

*While on the topic of work, she has a well-established career and her job even comes with some travel perks. I think she even won a vacation from her company a while back.

*And speaking of travel, she can pick up and go wherever she wants, whenever she wants. At least it seems that way. Since she can take her work with her, she gets to visit her friends who live far away and also finds the time to go on cruises and European adventures.

*She has a lot of friends. I have a lot of friends too, but I feel like the kinds of friendships we have are different. I'm close with very few people from my youth. She has friends she's been close with since elementary school. She's also been the bridesmaid or maid of honor for a lot of her friend's weddings. I've only stood up in one wedding as a bridesmaid.

*She's honorary aunt to a lot of her friends' kids and they all (the kids) seem to adore her.

*She's neat and organized. Her condo never looks like she can't get her act together.

*She's closer with more people in our family (such as most of our cousins).

*She gets new cars whenever she feels like it (or so it seems).

*She's always photogenic and doesn't seem to take a bad picture. Almost like Barney on How I Met Your Mother.

*She's able to make friends wherever she goes. One of her best friends is someone we met on a cruise in the beginning of 2000. I barely am in contact with any of the friends I met on cruises. (I see some on Facebook, but that's about it.)

All I know is that if I did a Freaky Friday switch with my sister, I would totally go on an amazing vacation with "Will" (since she's also close friends with him) and live it up as only she knows how. (Hawaii, here I come!) I would just hope that she could get my house in better shape and negotiate on getting a somewhat newer car.

I don't really know what she's thinking or feeling in terms of finding her soulmate, getting married, and having kids. I know she'd be a great wife to the guy who's lucky enough to deserve her commitment and loyalty, and an amazing mother, since she's already so good with kids. I do hope she finds the kind of relationship like I have with my husband, but I don't feel the need to pressure her into marriage and motherhood. I'm glad she's not settling for anything less than an amazing relationship. Until then, it seems like she has a great life and I'm really happy for her. I was looking at some of her Facebook photos and she's smiling in all of them and looking like she's having the time of her life.

Together at Disney World in 2013

Thursday, May 5, 2016

As long as you flush....

Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about two years, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, I chose the topic: Share your thoughts on the transgender bathroom issue.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

I chose this topic because it’s something that I’ve been talking about with everyone in our group. I’ve shared articles and memes about it with them, and they’ve shared some with me as well. It’s a pressing and controversial topic in this day and age. I have so many thoughts about it that just keep swimming around in my head. I thought that getting them out on screen would be the best way to think them through more clearly.

First of all, I am all for people using the bathroom of the gender they identify with. If you want to unfriend me because of this, be my guest. This is just the base root of the entire issue. Maybe since I am a woman and we have stalls in our bathroom, I’m not worried about what I might or might not see when someone uses the toilet. I am not immature enough to go peeping under stalls, looking through the cracks between the doors, or even standing on the toilet to look over a stall. I’m hoping any other woman (regardless of if they were born one or transitioned to one) would also possess enough maturity to leave people pee in peace.

Now that this is out of the way, here are some other observations I’ve made just from what has been online and what I’m thinking in general.

*Gender transitioning has been around for a long time, but only more recently has become newsworthy. Whether it was Caitlyn Jenner or some characters from Glee or Orange is the New Black (where the role is also played by a man who became a woman), more people are becoming open about their gender identity and transition. Even kids are doing it. (Jazz Jennings, for example.) There are books about people who are opening up about their transitions, as well. I heard about one involving twins where one of the guys became a girl (Becoming Nicole...the girl looks like Tatiana Maslany). There's also a fictional YA novel called George, that I've been wanting to read. Back in the 80s and 90s, I’m sure people were transitioning but staying in the dark. Surprisingly, it seems to be more of an accepted way of life, so why is it such an issue when it comes to using the bathroom?

*I’ve seen the bathroom issue turned on its toes, showing women in the men’s bathroom, saying how that they are forced to be in there because they were born male. Same goes with men being in the women’s room because they were born female. How much more awkward is this than someone who is in the bathroom of the gender they currently identify as?!? If you changed genders and went through the whole process, I should not be able to identify you as the gender you were born as. I’d feel more uncomfortable to see Chaz Bono in the women’s bathroom than I would to see Laverne Cox in there.

Should he be in the ladies' room
since he was born female?

*In regards to the Target issue, are one million people boycotting going to make a real difference in the grand scheme of things? Less time for me to wait in line, perhaps? I think my local Target was anticipating less customers because barely any registers were open on a Sunday afternoon and the lines were crazy as a result. In any case, Target should have more security coverage if they’re worried that allowing people to use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with is going to open things up to men pretending to be women to go in and molest or rape girls. If parents are that worried about their daughters, they should go in the bathrooms with them. They are public bathrooms, so it’s not like a lot can go on if people are around watching. I’m really not worried about predators at Target vs. a less public location where someone’s screams wouldn’t be heard.

*Having said the above, I’m more cautious when I go to the Mikvah than when I go to a public bathroom. That is due to a situation that happened nearby involving a Rabbi hiding video recording equipment in his shul’s Mikvah bathrooms, where women were taking off their clothes and bathing and showering without knowing about this extra presence in the room, until his scheme was exposed (pardon the pun) a year and a half ago. I’m more worried about higher religious powers seeing me in the Mikvah bathroom than I am about men dressed as women going into public bathrooms. And for the record, I saw Spotlight recently and that was a true story about male priests molesting BOYS. So girls/women are not the only victims in these types of situations.

*As it may have been noted already, people have been using the bathroom of the gender they identify with for ages before this became an issue. If you didn’t know that someone had transitioned, it wouldn’t have bothered you to know they were in the stall next to you. It’s like the glass shattered all of a sudden (think of the “Spoilers” episode of How I Met Your Mother) and suddenly people are freaked out about something that isn’t even an issue. And how often has a man pretending to be a woman gone into a bathroom to rape or molest someone? I’m sure it could happen, but it seems like bringing the issue of gender identity and proper bathroom assignments to light has opened up this issue too. I am wondering if some men are thinking “Gee, I hadn’t thought before to dress like a woman to go into the ladie’s room so I can rape and molest someone, but now that people who were born as a man and transitioned into a realistic looking woman can go into the ladies' room, I have free reign!” Also, some men don't even LIKE being in the ladies' room.

*As for another thing, straight people have been sharing bathrooms with people who are LBTQ for a long time and no one has thought about it twice. Why is it any different for a woman who is a lesbian to use the woman’s room than it is for a man who now identifies as a woman? Same with a gay man vs. someone born a woman who now identifies as a man? Should lesbians use the men’s room and gay men use the women’s room, even if they are the gender they were born as? Because that’s the direction I see this issue spiraling towards in the future if people don’t get over their nonsensical logic. In the meantime, I'm hoping North Carolina gets their act together!

*How about mixed gender bathrooms for all to even out the playing field? They did it on Ally McBeal and no one thought it was strange or awkward. Or just single bathrooms at all locations to make things less awkward? Sure, the lines would be longer for the latter, but everyone could pee without worrying they were being spied upon or about to be molested. They could do an outhouse approach to have a lineup of several single bathrooms in one area so there wasn’t TOO long of a wait. (Especially for women.) Or how about changing the stalls so that they’re impossible to look through at any angle. They’d all be their own little rooms so that people had as much privacy as possible. In men’s rooms, they could eliminate urinals altogether and just have stalls, again with maximum privacy. Who needs urinals anyway? No one has urinals in their homes and men still go to the bathroom by just using the toilet. This would also eliminate the urinal rule awkwardness (about how much space there should be between the men standing there).

Overall, this issue has more gray area than a Jodi Picoult novel. On one side, I am all for people using the bathroom of the gender they identify with. On the other side, I can understand why people would be worried that it allows people who are not legitimately transitioning to use the bathroom of the opposite gender for perverted reasons. However, I feel that the benefits of the former outweigh the possible latter situation happening. I think it’s important for places to be prepared if they are going to be open to letting people use the bathroom of their current gender. I don’t think people need to be singled out, but I think some security measures should be in place. “See something, say something,” for starters. Having security guards near the bathrooms to show they mean business. And while I wouldn’t have video cameras directed at the stalls, having them by the washing area and entrance of the bathroom to identify anyone violating the new bathroom policies would be helpful, as well.

Honestly, as long as everyone respects each other's privacy and flushes when they're done, I don't care who is in the same public bathroom as I am. Not flushing is a pet peeve of mine. I hate walking into a stall and seeing anything other than water in the toilet. I don't care if someone was once a man and now identifies as a woman....they just better flush!

This is how the toilet should look when you're done!