Thursday, April 17, 2014

Just a girl who cain't say no....

Our blog project group has once again changed by one member, but I'm still calling it Blog Project 3.0. The newest member is Darwin Shrugged, a friend of Froggie's. I recently got to know her better through "52 Stories" and I look forward to what she has to say on the upcoming topics.

This week Darwin Shrugged chose the topic: Can a person be too nice?

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

Oddly enough, I was watching The Mindy Project this week and Mindy was talking about how she's too nice when it comes to dating, even if she doesn't like the guy.

Anyway, this was an easy question to answer personally because I know that I am definitely too nice. I think I've always been that way though. While it has earned me some great friendships, it has also made me a pushover. Just like Ado Annie in Oklahoma, "I cain't say no!" Ironically enough, I had to perform that song for my musical theater class during senior year of high school. I must have had that phrase written all over my face.

I am learning how to say no though. I find it hard to do at times, with the exception of my kids. I find it rather easy to say no to them. Yet, when someone at work asks me to take on more than I'm already doing, I end up saying yes, even though it means I'll get overwhelmed as a result. Lately, I've been more liberal about saying no to extra work if I'm not going to be able to get it done in the time needed. I end up feeling bad about saying no, but I realize that it is necessary and the people who have asked respect why I needed to say no at those times.

Another part of my life where saying no proves to be difficult sometimes is for my book blog. I want to be able to include as many books as possible, but I also realize that I have a tight schedule and that there are other book blogs out there that may be a better fit. I am glad when someone else is able to say no so that I don't have to feel guilty about making the decision myself, and also when the book being suggested clearly is not a fit at all. So I have been saying no more often than I used to in terms of material for the blog.

In general though, I feel that I am overall incredibly nice. I like taking care of people and ensuring their happiness or comfort. Sometimes this manifests itself in the care packages I make and mail out. I also will bring my neighbors things I think they'll want or need. I loan out my books to anyone without a return date listed on them. I make sure peoples' dietary needs are accounted for when hosting Shabbat and holiday meals. Even yesterday, I loaned a guest one of my rain ponchos so they wouldn't have to get cold and sick from the rain.

I pride myself on being really nice. However, this doesn't mean I won't stand up for myself and my own needs if I have to. I've been known to get short with people if they say or do something to really upset me. For the most part though, I am easygoing about the little things in life and try to find a way to make things work whenever possible, as long as I can have a balance where I'm not overlooking what I want or need in the process. I know people who are also really nice and while I enjoy that about them, I also hope that they have the same balance that I strive to maintain.

Here's the song I was talking about:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tuning in...

I asked a question on Facebook the other day about becoming emotionally invested in a TV show. I received a variety of answers, as a result.

Here was the original question:
What TV show have you been the most emotionally invested in? Like if something happens on the show, does it make or break your week depending on whether it's good or bad? Do you find yourself sobbing from an episode or wanting to call the writers and yell at them? Anything goes here!

There were some people who answered that they were depressed for days or even WEEKS after something bad happened to a character on a show. The first comment I received was: "It's TV for crying out loud!"

Yes, it is TV. That makes me wonder why we get so emotionally invested in the first place. I don't even know if movies have this impact since it's a one-time sit through and then you watch the same story over and over again if you like it, but you know the outcome. With TV, you are taken along on a 20 + episode ride through any given year. You get to know the characters through the various episodes and bond with them as a result. There are lots of cliffhangers throughout the season to keep you wondering what will happen to the characters. It's truly intense!

The reason I asked the question was because of last week's series finale of How I Met Your Mother and this week's "upset" on The Mindy Project. (If you don't want spoilers for either, stop right here and watch the shows and then come back afterward.)

Anyway, with How I Met Your Mother, there were all these theories about the characters that were played upon by the writers, leaving little room for any surprises. Everyone was speculating that the mother would die and Ted would end up with Robin at some point in the future. So we can't say we didn't see the ending coming. Still, when the mother first showed up, she was so adorable and funny and just perfect for Ted, so we wanted them to live happily ever after and grow old together. It was what we'd been waiting for after nine seasons. So killing her off and then putting him with Robin because they wrote it that way in 2005 was not satisfying to many viewers. I'm definitely one of those viewers. I walked away from the show with a "meh" feeling. I know some people were yelling and screaming at the injustice of it all. I just felt let down and annoyed.

Then there were this week's episodes of The Mindy Project. After dating for only a short period of time, Danny broke things off with Mindy, stating that he didn't want to lose her as a friend. Some people on the show's Facebook fan page are in an uproar. It's almost amusing to see how much they are freaking out. I keep telling them to relax because it's not the season (or series) finale and we don't know what's around the next corner for Mindy and Danny. Then again, I could be enjoying this because it means I get Danny to myself now. ;) Even so, I am a cheerleader for Mindy and Danny being together. That kiss in the mid-season finale was stellar. I kept watching it over and over and getting good chills each time.

Anyway, both shows led me to think about shows I've been emotionally invested in over time. I have liked a lot of shows, but there are some that just grab me in various ways by making me a bawling mess, getting me all anxious for the characters, streaming into my subconscious with dreams about stuff that happened, etc. I'll share about a few of them here.

The first time I became emotionally invested in a show was with Punky Brewster. There was an episode where Henry was sick and Punky had to be taken back to the orphanage. I remember crying after an episode where we would wonder whether they'd get to be together again. I was nine years old at the time. Funny enough, I watched an episode with my kids recently where Brandon gets injured and you think he's going to die and then this old woman's dog dies instead. I was sitting there with tears streaming down my face. And I'm 37 now!

Full House has gotten to me many, many times. I've cried over small things like when they reminisce about the mother who died after Michelle was born (why do all of Bob Saget's wives have to die?!?) and big things like when Jesse's grandpa died. I can barely think about that episode without crying. I had a happy cry when Steve came back to go to the prom with DJ in the series finale. There were all sorts of other things on that show that could make me get all emotional.

Even Saved by the Bell has had some emotional moments. I can't NOT cry when Jessie is "so scared" after taking caffeine pills and being caught by Zack. I also cry happy tears when Zack makes an outdoor prom for Kelly and sad tears when they break up. I never understood teen love, but Zack and Kelly were meant to be together!

Friends is next on my list. I remember sobbing when Ross walked off the plane with Julie after Rachel realized he liked her and was going to meet him there. I've gotten teary-eyed at various other moments on the show throughout the many seasons. I loved the cliff hangers they had from time to time and how they played them out. I was rooting for Chandler and Monica to get together and loved how people started finding out eventually.

Dawson's Creek had the ability to mess with my emotions from time to time and the series finale just put me over the edge.

I found myself yelling and crying at Carrie on Sex and the City when she cheated on Aidan with Big. I think I threw a pillow at the TV.

Desperate Housewives got into my head way too much and I'd obsess over what was happening on the show, even when it wasn't on. There was always an element of danger too. I got wrapped up in their lives and nervous for them when something could potentially go wrong or someone could get hurt. My heart was thudding the whole episode leading up to the murder of one of the really great characters on the show. I even had dreams about various episodes, especially after something traumatic happened, like Carlos going blind after the tornado. I was really sad when Tom and Lynnette were separated. I didn't want that to happen at all.

Next is 90210. Yes, the new series. I will admit that I cried my heart out when Adrianna gave her baby up for adoption. I also became obsessed with the story lines from that show. There was a danger element for the characters, as well, which always made me nervous. There were a few other times throughout the series when I'd cry from something that happened to one of the characters.

Ugly Betty knew how to draw me in emotionally, especially since I could relate to Betty in a lot of ways. The ending to the first season traumatized me and it didn't help that the second season started off with a false hope only to have it dashed by the end of the episode, in a heartbreaking way. There were many more emotional ups and downs throughout the year. One of the hardest was when Daniel's girlfriend died. So heartbreaking!

Despite how Glee has felt like a train wreck over the last few seasons, there have been some emotional episodes. Mind you, I did not cry at the Finn memorial episode. It was more in the earlier seasons when stuff had an emotional impact. However, I had a dream about this week's episode before even seeing it based on what was in the preview. Thankfully, the outcome of the actual episode wasn't as bad as I was fearing. I also get wound up about stuff the characters do and attribute it to the actors.

Those are the main shows that have affected me emotionally in one way or another throughout the years. I'd love to hear about the shows that have this grip on you!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

If the shoe fits...or doesn't

Our blog project group has once again changed by one member, but I'm still calling it Blog Project 3.0. The newest member is Darwin Shrugged, a friend of Froggie's. I recently got to know her better through "52 Stories" and I look forward to what she has to say on the upcoming topics.

This week Froggie chose the topic: Write about something no one would ever guess about you.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

A few years ago, I chose a topic similar to this, but aside from Froggie and myself, the other bloggers were completely different. At the time, I talked about a trip abroad that I took when I was almost 16.

Since that time, I've covered every topic possible about my life and what makes me who I am. I could be considered an open book for all the sharing I've done. So it was hard to come up with something that you might not guess, but I think I did.

Being a huge chick lit fan, you'd think that I'd be into something that most chick lit characters are into, but I'm surprisingly not. What would that be, you ask? Why, shoes, of course.

There you have it: I don't like shoes.

I thought it was just that I didn't like shopping for them, but I just have little interest in shoes outside of protecting my feet and making sure I am dressed for the right occasion. When I absolutely have to buy shoes, I keep them as simple as possible and hope that they'll be comfortable too.

The truth of the matter is that I have huge feet. I don't know where they came from because my mom and sister have cute little feet that allow them to buy equally cute little shoes. I feel like Peggy Hill in comparison! I'm between 8 1/2 and 9, depending on the kind of shoe. The choices for this size aren't as cute or as plentiful, so shopping for shoes is a complete drag. I have a hard time finding anything that fits just right or that even looks nice on my foot. I also don't feel I need a different pair of shoes for every outfit, so I try to get neutral colors that will go with most outfits. Therefore, I don't have a collection to rival Carrie Bradshaw's. Then there's a matter of the style and even the availability in my size. The price factors in too. I hate shopping retail but I also don't like the selection at the thrift store. So I usually hit up Payless when they have a big sale. Of course, the pairs I like aren't part of the sale. Murphy's Law, right?

I don't only dislike getting shoes for myself, but also for my kids. My younger son has issues with any shoes I get him that aren't sneakers, which makes getting Shabbos shoes a real pain. My daughter has become a fashion diva and no shoe is good enough for her. I think she only goes after the most expensive ones. The last time I took her to get sneakers, I felt like I was having a hot flash in the middle of the store. Yes, shoe shopping provokes that feeling for me. I know I could buy them online, but that also makes me anxious because I need to be able to try on the shoes before I buy them and I don't want to deal with waiting and then having to ship them back if they don't fit. I rarely can find a pair of shoes I truly love and when I do, those wear out the fastest! I got this one pair of nice shoes at an outlet mall back in 2012 and they lasted for a while before the insides came out and I couldn't wear them comfortably anymore. I couldn't find another pair like them, at least not in my size. The next pair I got is okay, but sometimes they hurt my feet if I walk in them for too long. I also feel like the colors look slightly mismatched.

The outlet mall shoes

Even as a kid, I hated going shoe shopping. I thought shoe stores were the most boring places next to hardware stores. My mom told me that when I was really young, I'd freak out when shoe salesmen tried to touch my feet. Maybe my hatred for shoe shopping stems from there? Still, I wish slippers were made with rubber soles so I could just wear them everywhere. I love slippers and wouldn't mind wearing them all the time. Until someone invents "anywhere slippers," I'll just have to wear my current shoes until they're unwearable and then I'm forced to buy new shoes for myself again.

There's only one kind of shoe that I truly like wearing. They look like a mix between sneakers and nice shoes and work well for walking to shul (except in the rain, since my feet get wet through the little holes). They're more comfortable than most shoes I own, but they even go through a lot of wear and tear. The velcro stops sticking after a while and that's when I need to replace them again. The pair shown here is the second pair I've had of this kind of shoe. I am now on to my third pair and I hope they'll hang in there a little longer so that I don't have to venture out to the shoe store again anytime soon! A friend recently left shoes here and they actually fit me, even though they're a smaller size than I normally wear. She said it wasn't worth shipping them back for how much they cost to begin with and said I could keep them if they fit. Since they are perfect for my spring and summer wardrobe and I have no desire to go shoe shopping again anytime soon (haven't I said that already....yeah, I'm that adamant about it), they're staying right here.

And in case you're wondering, I haven't brought myself to read Beth Harbison's "Shoe Addict" books because I feel like I won't be able to relate at all. (Getting back to #FirstWorldProblems here...)

Friday, April 4, 2014

The not-so-ugly truth about running a book blog

I entered another essay into a contest for Ladies Home Journal. The topic was "Tell Us About the Best Decision You've Ever Made." I didn't win the contest, but that frees me up to finally post this here, so you can see what it's like to run a book blog (or a blog for any kind of interest/hobby, for that matter!)
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Whenever a package arrives in the mail, it’s greeted with groans from my sons when they realize it’s yet another book for me. Of course, I’m delighted by its arrival, especially if it’s coming to my house before it even reaches the bookstore shelves. My own shelves are stuffed two rows deep (on four levels) with books waiting to be read…and reviewed on my blog, Chick Lit Central.

I have always been a reader, ever since I memorized books at the age of three. In my mid-20s, I came across a genre that I fell in love with almost immediately— chick lit. From Marian Keyes to Jennifer Weiner, I just couldn’t get enough of stories about women my age making their way in the world, dealing with self-image, career, friendship, and—of course—love. I read countless amounts of chick lit novels, starting in the late 90s. In 2010, I won my first chick lit novel from a book blog (Novel Escapes). I thought it was cool to win a book but didn’t give it much thought past that. However, I was also e-mailing with a few girlfriends about chick lit novels and thought that I should look for other women online who also shared this interest. I knew other fans existed and would be fun to chat with. I started a group on Facebook called Chick Lit Central and began reaching out to friends and women who were fans of my favorite authors, inviting them to join.

I also started an accompanying blog to review the books I was currently reading. You know the Field of Dreams quote, “If you build it, they will come?” That happened almost immediately when an author, Sarah Pekkanen, asked me to review her debut novel, The Opposite of Me. She then sent it to me in the mail. I devoured it in a matter of days; it was that wonderful! In the meantime, I came across two professional and wonderful blogs that were running book giveaways and featuring authors— Manic Mommy (who is only doing giveaways on Facebook now) and Chick Lit is Not Dead (now Liz and Lisa). From them, I learned about a lot of new chick lit authors and novels.

At this point, I figured that I could also do interviews and giveaways at Chick Lit Central, as well as review books that authors and publishers sent me. My first interview was with Allie Larkin, another author with a debut novel that year, Stay. I also got to interview Allison Winn Scotch, whose novel, The One that I Want, was publishing soon. It felt so cool to be able to e-mail with authors, like I was getting to know new friends. Both interviews featured giveaways, but the entries were slow-going. I thought I’d take matters into my own hands and share my blog wherever possible, in hopes of putting the word out. I had been corresponding with a book publicist around this time, and she sent me a message telling me to curb my enthusiasm, meaning I should just let things happen naturally and not try to force my blog down everyone’s throats. She was worried that I would be upset by this advice, but being a newbie, I took it to heart and did exactly what she told me. Believe it or not, this worked well!

While I was embarrassed at how I’d handled things initially, I learned how to tone down my approach. Instead of posting my blog link on every single author’s wall, I instead sent them a personal, friendly message inviting them to see what my blog was all about and asking if they’d be interested in having their book featured. Several authors jumped at this opportunity, which outweighed the ones who ignored me. Can’t win ‘em all, right? I got the opportunity to feature Carole Matthews and Jane Green, two authors whose books I love. Receiving Jennifer Weiner’s new novel to review (at the time it was Fly Away Home) was a huge accomplishment on my part. When I went to Jennifer’s book signing shortly after I had reviewed it (positively of course, as it was a great book), she knew who I was because of my blog and was really friendly to me. I definitely had an adrenaline rush from the experience.

Two other things happened around this time. The first was bringing on a partner. I had reconnected via Facebook with a girl who was my neighbor when we were growing up. We discovered a mutual love for chick lit, and I invited her to help me do interviews and review books. It brought us even closer together. And while I was nurturing the baby known as my new blog, I was also pregnant with my third child. Sometimes, sitting at the computer for long periods of time added to my first trimester nausea, but it didn’t stop me from reading. I was excited about the new life growing inside me while Chick Lit Central was taking on a life of its own.

As my blog started growing, I realized I couldn’t do this by myself anymore. There’s a lot of work and time commitment involved on the back end of things…the posts don’t write themselves! I was also receiving an abundance of books and not enough time to read them all, especially with a third child demanding my attention (and depriving me of sleep).  During the summer of 2011, I decided to have auditions to bring on review associates. I held these auditions two years in a row, bringing in some great reviewers with whom I’ve also become friends. Some of them are even authors with their own books. In 2011, I met a woman who was just as enthusiastic about chick lit as I was. She now handles a lot of our social media needs and brings in new authors. In 2012, I invited my best friend to be part of the team, as well. She has been incredible with interviews and feature posts, as well as also helping out on certain social media aspects. 

A day in the life of running Chick Lit Central involves sharing posts on social media sites (basically Facebook and Twitter), making sure all the posts are ready to go on the day they’re scheduled, coordinating interviews, processing review requests, reading books and writing reviews. In the past, we had multiple posts each day. With my newest partner’s guidance, I was able to balance the schedule so we’re less overwhelmed. Even so, there is still a lot to be done. I tried to step away for a short time to see if it could run without my help, but while I’m pretty lenient with my children, I tend to be a “Helicopter Mom” when it comes to my blog.  Aside from running Chick Lit Central, I have a full-time job, am raising three young children and observe the Jewish Sabbath, which means no technology from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. When there are religious holidays going on, I’m offline on a given week sometimes more than I’m online!

One of the greatest benefits to having a book blog is that some of my favorite authors have become familiar with me. I also got to connect with new authors and am still close with some of them. I’ve even appeared at some of their blogs! I still remember when my sister e-mailed me to ask if the Kristin Hannah of Firefly Lane fame congratulated me on Facebook when my daughter was born. And when I went to another of Jennifer Weiner’s book signings, she called me out by name when I raised my hand to ask a question. When my family and I went to Disney World, we met up with Kristin Harmel (The Sweetness of Forgetting) for dinner one night. My parents acted like I’d introduced them to a celebrity. Authors are celebrities in my…um…book! And then there was the dinner that Jane Porter hosted this past spring. It was amazing to finally meet her in person. She treated me like we were old friends. Sarah Pekkanen was also hosting the event, and I felt like we had both come full circle as she was becoming well-known for her books (she was featuring her fourth novel by then), and I had around 1000 followers at Chick Lit Central, which gave me immense pride.

There are also the independent authors, whom I’ve gotten to know really well over the past couple of years. When Samantha Stroh Bailey contacted me about featuring her debut novel, Finding Lucas, I had no idea one e-mail would lead to us talking about our children, religion,  our daily lives and, of course, our favorite books. By this time, I was too biased to review her novel at the blog, so I invited a guest to write a review instead. I did eventually read it for fun and shared my thoughts on Goodreads. I loved it and would have loved it even if I had never met Samantha. In the fall of 2011, Jen Tucker contacted me about featuring her hilarious and heartfelt memoir, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out. Based on what she wrote about, I knew we’d get along really well outside of the blog and started e-mailing her with funny stories or gluten-free recipes. We recently met in person, as well! Over the past year, I’ve connected with Meredith Schorr, and she even included me in the acknowledgements for her latest novel, Blogger Girl.

In general, I love how chick lit brings authors together in such a supportive environment. They endorse each other’s books and are so encouraging of one another. They’re also really nice to their readers. It’s truly amazing to see all the camaraderie going on through social media. I like finding ways for readers to learn new things about authors through interviews and have come up with themed months to do this. Some of my favorite themes involved pop culture, such as music, movies and television.

Another wonderful aspect of running Chick Lit Central has been the friends I’ve made with readers and bloggers. To this day, I am still friends with some and have lost touch with others, but still see them around the blogosphere from time-to-time. I’ve also connected with a friend from my neighborhood because of chick lit (we probably would still be casual acquaintances otherwise), who is now a review associate.  At the beginning of 2013, I became close with a woman who e-mailed me to ask about writing guest reviews. She started calling me a “Book Fairy” and even made me a “Book Fairy” doll that my three year-old daughter often kidnaps. This past summer, we merged our blogs (hers being Book Mama Blog) as “sisters,” meaning we’d provide more exposure for books and also increase the publicity for each other’s posts.

Chick Lit Central has enriched my life in so many ways between the friendships and the plethora of free books, as well as a way to express my thoughts and feelings about books, knowing a lot of people will read them. The notoriety has been incredible. I was so touched to find out that someone purchased a book based on my recommendation. I love knowing what my reviews can do for authors and their books. Having an author tell me that my review shows that I really “got” their book means the world to me. It was a huge honor to have Chick Lit Central selected as one of the hosts of International Chick Lit Month, and also to receive a request to interview a celebrity-turned-author.

Overall, I would definitely recommend book blogging as a great outlet for people who like to read and want to share their love of books with others. Even when I’m having a stressful week trying to manage the blog along with everything else going on in my life, receiving an e-mail from an author or reader telling me that Chick Lit Central is their favorite book blog makes it all worthwhile.

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, April 3, 2014

Boo-hoo! You had me, and then you lost me!

Our blog project group has once again changed by one member, but I'm still calling it Blog Project 3.0. The newest member is Darwin Shrugged, a friend of Froggie's. I recently got to know her better through "52 Stories" and I look forward to what she has to say on the upcoming topics.

This week I chose the topic: First World Problems.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

For some reason, when I think of first world problems, I think of some lines from "The Sinatra Group," a really funny skit that was done on SNL back in the early 90s. One of the things Frank Sinatra (played by the late, great Phil Hartman) says is "Boo-hoo! You had me, and then you lost me!" He also mimics playing a violin at another point. I could see those being responses to most of the "drama" I read about on Facebook on a daily basis. And then there's the line from Sinead O'Connor (played by Jan Hooks): "I can't believe you're talking about my hair with all the bloody starvation and suffering in the world right now." That pretty much says it all, even over 20 years later.

Recently, I've been seeing posts on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems. There's even a Twitter page just for these sorts of grievances to be aired. It's stuff we deal with in a modern and privileged world, with all this technology at our fingertips. I just read a book called Secret Daughter (reviewed here) and it talks about the poverty in India a lot. It made me think about how grateful I am to live where I do and to not have to worry about the issues that people have to worry about there. When we discussed the book at our book club meeting, one of the girls said she lived in India for a while and that the author wasn't exaggerating. That just made things seem so much worse in a way. And yet, people in the US are complaining because they couldn't get their selfie to load up on Facebook or that they have to turn on the TV manually because their remote control ran out of battery power. Here's where the Frank Sinatra responses would come in handy. It's hard NOT to laugh at the problems posted on the Twitter page.

In any case, I know everyone has their own problems to deal with, whether they are big or small. Just because we have all sorts of advantages in today's society, we are still entitled to complain if something is bothering us. I wouldn't categorize every issue we have as a first world problem, but if it's legitimately bothering us, then we should at least be able to vent to those we care about. It doesn't need to be an announcement on Facebook, but if we need to get it off our chest, so be it. I apologize for being vague, but I recently complained to a friend about something that bothered me recently and I didn't want to make a big deal out of it or hurt the person who caused the problem because it was really trite in the grand scheme of things. It just felt better to get it off my chest to someone who was completely impartial to the situation and I was even able to look back at things and laugh about what happened instead of getting all mad over it. There are other little daily annoyances that I don't necessarily feel like sharing with the world, but I try to find a way to deal with them and get over them so that they don't ruin my day. However, in the name of good fun, I'll share a few of them here while Frank Sinatra plays his "violin":

*The series finale of How I Met Your Mother was predictable and disappointing to me.

*Commercial-Free Tuesday on the country station isn't happening anymore.

*I have to shop for Passover food and it's all too overwhelming and everything is much more expensive.

*On that note, I have to clean for Passover, which includes my car.

*It somehow annoys me that Frozen is the highest grossing Disney animated film EVER. (See why.)

*Movies cost a lot of money at the theater so you'd think people could keep that in mind before letting their kids scream or talk throughout most of it. Also, the Regal Cinema where we saw Muppets Most Wanted doesn't have stadium seating. Just saying.... (Oh, and my daughter was being selfish with the Raisinets.)

*Having to watch the new Annie trailer every time I take my kids to a movie.

*So many books and I can't decide what to read next!

*When publishers send me books that have nothing to do with what I cover on my blog. They just end up sitting in a box if I don't think they're appropriate to give to my friends.

*Always getting THE most annoying songs in my head.

*The one Kosher Chinese restaurant nearby isn't all that impressive so I don't get Chinese food nearly as often as I used to.

*The traffic lights in Maryland are five minutes long.

*Getting stuck behind a bus that keeps stopping every two minutes and no room to get around it.

*There's no soundtrack available for If/Then, even though it's on Broadway now.

*My iPhone sends me "push notification" requests for the same apps I already said "don't allow" for.

*Google Chrome is constantly being "mean" to me between closing down at random times and showing weird pop up ads.

What are YOUR #FirstWorldProblems?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: Secret Daughter

Although Secret Daughter has some elements of chick lit, I am tight on space at Chick Lit Central and I really wanted to get this review out there so everyone knows what a great book it is. There were also some elements that were too heavy for it to be considered chick lit anyway. Besides, I read it for book club, so it counts more as general literature.

On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter's life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.

Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both of their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnessed through the lives of two families—one Indian, one American—and the child that indelibly connects them. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

From the moment I cracked this book open, I knew I was going to love it, and I was right. There were some upsetting parts, especially for me to read as a mother. However, they were balanced out by a beautifully told story with descriptions so real that you could smell the streets of India and taste the spiciness of the food. I've never been to India, but I felt like I was right there the entire time. The voices seemed so real that I kept forgetting it was a fictional novel. I enjoyed learning about the different customs and cultures in India. There was so much contrast between the life that Krishnan was born into and the life that Kavita found ways to survive through. It was so jarring in that way.

If I had more time to just sit and read, I would have read this in a day or two. It was just that compelling and difficult to put down. I'd be short on time and say to myself "just one more chapter!" The whole time, it gave off the feel of a Khaled Hosseini novel. I love his books, so this is a good thing. I have been recommending it to everyone, even when I wasn't finished with it yet. And after finishing it, I still highly recommend it! The ending was a bit anticlimactic and left some questions unanswered, but it made me think of the book that was referenced a lot in The Fault in Our Stars, where it just ends abruptly and there are still a lot of answers needed, yet it is still the characters' favorite book anyway. In any case, I can't say enough good things about this book. It was just so well-written and eye opening, making me count my blessings even more than before, both on a personal and a global level. This is definitely not a book to be kept secret about!

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, March 27, 2014

Allergic to surprises

Our blog project group has once again changed by one member, but I'm still calling it Blog Project 3.0. The newest member is Darwin Shrugged, a friend of Froggie's. I recently got to know her better through "52 Stories" and I look forward to what she has to say on the upcoming topics.

This week Moma Rock chose the topic: Are you good at keeping secrets? Describe a time you were able to keep a secret, and another time where you were unable to. What were the outcomes in both scenarios?

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

It's ironic that this topic came up recently because my husband was telling me that he couldn't share some information with me that he learned at a meeting from our shul. I told him that I wasn't going to tell anyone else, but his lips were sealed. I've dropped it since then.

In any case, I've kept secrets for other people. Some were deep and some were light.  My older son asked me to keep a secret for him a few weeks ago. It was a very minor secret, but he was protective of it, nonetheless. This was coming from someone who won't let us keep secrets from him, even when they're for good things, like surprises. He claims he is "allergic to surprises."

Having said that, I will talk about some good and fun secrets that were related to surprises, since I don't feel like talking about deep, dark secrets.

The first one, of course, was our trip to Disney World last year. My husband and I kept it a secret from our kids for nine months! Toward the end, we convinced them we were going to Chicago so we could surprise them at the airport, like other families do when they want to tell their kids they're taking them to Disney World. (I'm such a dork that I actually cried while watching some of those videos.)

Here's a video showing how we surprised the boys. There's even a photo slideshow afterward.

As you can see (if you watched the video), it backfired a little, as our older son was disappointed that he wasn't going to Chicago. Now when we go on trips, he doesn't believe we're actually going where we say we're going. But was keeping the surprise worth it? YES! My husband actually got tripped up once and almost ruined the surprise, but our son was so convinced we were going to Chicago that he actually corrected him!

Recently, my in-laws came in town for our daughter's birthday. We didn't tell the boys because if the weather was bad or something changed last minute, we didn't want them to be disappointed. Even when they were on the road, almost to our house, we carried out the surprise. We even had the kids call them to wish them a good Shabbos like they would any other week. Keeping it a surprise was definitely worth it because when my older son saw his Bubbe, he practically glided down the hallway to give her a hug.

Another time, I pulled off a good surprise on my husband by hosting a surprise party for his birthday, shortly after we moved to Maryland. I was impressed that we had such a good turnout for being new in the neighborhood. He was so clueless about the surprise that he kept fussing with our front door window curtain frame when we first came in instead of going into the family room. He definitely was surprised though.

A couple of years later, I tried to surprise my husband again for his birthday by taking him out for sushi. However, a friend of ours forced me to ruin the surprise by inviting him to come out for sushi a few days prior to his birthday. I kept telling him that it wouldn't be a good idea and then I had to confess why. It took away the momentum out of the surprise and I was all annoyed that I had to be put in that position.

The other good surprise I kept was when I became pregnant the first time. I totally surprised my family with the news. My cousin suspected it a month before I broke the news, but my mom thought she was crazy at the time. The second and third time around, they were on to me, so it was harder to keep as a surprise (but the main reason I didn't say anything for three months was due to Jewish superstition). I was disappointed when I couldn't pull off the surprise element of it the third time around, as my mom said something to the extent of "come off it already, we know you're pregnant!" I think we were able to surprise my mother-in-law though, even though I worried she suspected something was going on a couple months prior.

I'm genuinely hard to surprise, but my husband has pulled off some good ones on me, like when he proposed and the recent fun day out he planned for our 10 year anniversary. (Our older son was upset that he wouldn't even tell him what he had planned for me.) He also did a fun surprise with my 30th birthday cake, which I did not see coming at all.

Secrets can be good when they're related to something good, unless you're allergic to surprises. I'm just allergic to having surprises ruined!