Thursday, October 30, 2008

Today's Smile Source

Have I mentioned how much I adore my nephews? I know I am a bit biased, but they are just the cutest, brightest kids! And they never fail to make me smile and laugh.

My sister, Emily, sent me a picture of my Godson, James, today. It was taken at preschool yesterday. If you look closely, you can see they are holding hands.

My sister asked what they were doing in the picture, and James said:

"Mom, we are getting married. This is the girl I am going to marry."
So my sister asked what the girl's name was and James said he didn't know!

James has always been a charmer, though. He's gone through phases where he asks if you are single and if you say you are, he will then ask for your number. Guess he isn't going to be shy about pursuing girls! Now we just need to teach him to remember their names!!!

I'm spending Halloween with Andrew & Matthew tomorrow night so am really excited about that. Andrew is going to be Spiderman and Matthew is dressing up as a pumpkin. Andrew has been practicing 'throwing webs' for quite awhile now so is fully prepared to transform into Spiderman tomorrow night. Can't wait to see the little guys in their costumes!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Zookeeper's Wife

I usually don't like to double-post, but I just finished this book and want to write about it while it's still fresh in my memory. "The Zookeeper's Wife," written by Diane Ackerman, caught my eye last summer while I was paging through a magazine at the lake. It was on the must-read list, but I sort of forgot about until I noticed it on a table in Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. Ackerman tells the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, a Polish couple that resided in Warsaw, Poland during World War II. They were not Jewish so were not subjected to the treatment that sector of the population experienced. While Poland was occupied, the Zabinski's worked with the Underground Uprising and are credited for saving over 300 people. From the beginning of the war, until Liberation in 1945, they housed many Jews in their villa and various cages and sheds on the zoo grounds. For the latter part of the war, Jan joined his fellow countrymen in the fight against the Germans, so Antonina managed their underground operations on her own.

This book was a departure from the subject matter that Ackerman typically writes about. She has penned numerous essay and books on nature and human nature. Since she is not a historian, the book flowed a little differently and focused on different aspects of the Nazi ideals; she spoke about the Nazi obsession with racial purity. This obsession with purity also extended to flora and fauna and Ackerman tied these Nazi ideals into the story.

The book was very interesting, but difficult to read at the same time. It definitely made me reflect back on the two Concentration Camps that I visited while in Germany, Sachsenhausen and Dachau. As depressing as it was to tour these Concentration Camps, it was an important part of my trip. Sections of the book reminded me of stories that the tour guides told. When we toured Dachau, we watched a video and heard stories about how the people that lived around Dachau ignored what was happening and went on living their lives. The same behavior was described in this book; as a birthday present for Hitler, Heinrich Himmler liquidated the Jews still living in the Ghetto in Warsaw. The Jews put up more of a fight that Himmler had anticipated; after a month of fighting, the Germans decided to torch everything - buildings, bunkers, sewers, and all the people in them. While all this happened, life in Warsaw continued. As Ackerman reports, "life flowed on as usual, as yesterday, as always. People enjoyed themselves. They saw the smoke from the fires by day and flames by night. Country girls visiting the capital rode on the roundabout, looking over the flames of the ghetto, laughing, catching leaves of ash that floated their way, as a loud carnival tune played." It's so haunting to read about this. The smell of burning flesh had to have been in the air, but those unaffected turned their heads and continued to live their lives.

Although the book impacted me, it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. I thought it would focus more on the stories of the 300+ people that the Zabinski's saved, or that it would give more details as to how they pulled this off. While there were anecdotes throughout the book, I didn't feel that they were as central to the book as they should have been. Ackerman told the story of the 6 years of Occupation in just over 300 pages, so obviously there was a need to give a highlighted view of those 6 years. 300 pages does not give the author enough time to develop the story like she could have. It would be interesting to read the same story written by a different person. After reading the book, I still don't feel like I know Antonina as well as I could have. Despite my criticism, I still think it is worth checking out.

The Color Purple

While I have read Alice Walker's book, "The Color Purple," that's not what this blog post is about. After my honest, but 'downer debbie' post last week, I figured I better write about one of the many things that is making me very happy these days. And that is the color purple. Purple has never been a favorite color of mine... which is surprising given the fact that my bathroom is painted lilac with dark purple towels to accent the color. I can't remember what drove me to go with that color scheme. (mom do you remember?) I have no idea. My favorite color for the last 10 years has been pink... so just one color family over from purple, so I guess it makes sense that I am gravitating towards purple these days.

If you've been out and about lately, you probably have seen a lot of purple. It's sort of the 'it' color of the season... But I would like to say, I have bought my purple scarf, sweater, and hand bag because I loved them, not because 'purple is the new black'. I'm far too practical to be swayed by such statements.

So here are a few things that have caught my eye lately... none of which I own. Apparently all the purple stuff I've bought in the last couple months is so fashionable, you can't find it on the Internet anymore! Ha... or they've been discontinued because I'm the only one who has bought them!

And, had I not bought a purple scarf already, I'd probably knit something up in this color...

I might do a re-read of "The Color Purple" since I was probably 14 when I read it... so you may see that popping up here in the future... if I ever get through the stack of books collecting dust on my book shelf. What can I say, my bookshelf runneth over...

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Reflection Friday...

Life's been a bit busier lately, and the book I am reading ("The Zookeeper's Wife") is based on a true story and the subject-matter (WWII) is pretty heavy, so I am not flying through it as quickly as I normally do... So I am posting something off subject. Honestly, if it was up to me, I'd post something every day, but y'all (err, all 5 of you that read this) would probably get really bored and tired of hearing my rantings... so I try to limit my posts.

I think Blogging is downright addictive. It's made me realize how much I LOVE writing. However, this blog is different than many others that I check since I am not anonymous. Most people Everyone that reads this knows who I am, and has known me most, if not all, of my life.

So sometimes divulging what I am really thinking/feeling is tough. Putting it out there makes you pretty vulnerable. But that's sort of what Blogging is all about. It's about putting a voice to the thoughts you are having.

I experimented with this earlier this week with a post about 'the best days of your life'. After I wrote it and pushed the 'publish post' button, I felt really good about it. It was witty and honest, and a true reflection of what I was feeling at the time. But that next night, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. So my insomniac-self got up and deleted that post.

The gist of the post was this: what days are considered the best of your life? Reflecting back on the past 27 years of my life, I'd say my college days were the best so far. I was taking really interesting, challenging classes. I was surrounded by an awesome group of friends. I didn't know anything about having a mortgage or what it felt like to own a condo that is worth 20% less than it was when I bought it. My biggest worry was figuring who to ask to Anchor Ball.

These days, however, I've got much bigger worries on my mind. I'm finishing up an MBA program and trying to find a job with a salary that will offset my ridiculously high student loan balance. All signs are pointing to the fact that we are in a recession, so my graduation timing is far from ideal.

On top of that, I'll be turning 28 in a few months. I love the midwest, but I don't love what living in the midwest as a single, 28 year old means. I was at a wedding this summer where I was the oldest single girl (picture me w/ a bunch of 14 years olds during the bouquet toss...) As of this week, all of my closest friends are either engaged or married. I am extremely happy for them, but it's a weird feeling to be the last single girl. Add to that the fact that I am the only unmarried child in my family, and the oldest unmarried cousin on both sides of the family, with a younger sibling/cousins that are engaged/married, and well, you start to feel like your status makes you a candidate for the circus. I'm sort of feeling like the 'cheese stands alone' verse of 'The Farmer in the Dell' is my theme song right about now...

But really, when it comes down to it, I have so much to be thankful for. I am lucky to have a family that I LOVE spending time with. I have a great group of friends. I have a job right now, which is something to be thankful for during these challenging times. So in the grand scheme of things, I'm pretty darn lucky.

Bottom line, though, I am just hoping that when I am 60 or 80, I'm not still thinking that those college years were the best years of my life. So this either means believing that Mr. Right will come along. Or accepting the life God has mapped out for me - whether or not that includes a husband, 2.5 kids, and a white picket fence.

So that's where I am right now - working on the accepting part. I'm a bit of a control freak, so handing over the controls and embracing the passenger seat is challenging. I'm too young to give up on the dream of having a husband and a family of my own. I'm hopeful that someday, just as I laugh at the days of stressing out over anchor ball dates and college exams, I'll come back and read this post some day, and laugh that I stressed about this sort of thing. I'm also hoping that my fabulous husband will be sitting next me, lovingly teasing me about how much of a worry-wort I was...

So that's why I'm putting words to the thoughts/feelings I am having. Enjoy your weekends, everyone!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ABCs of Me

Saw this on another blog, thought it would be fun to do!

A - Age: 27, nearing 28

B - Band listening to right now: Not really a band, but I am loving Matt Nathanson!

C - Career future: Good question. Ha! Realistic career: something in finance. Dream career: Owner of a Bookstore.

D - Dad’s name: Paul

E - Easiest person to talk to: I have lots, luckily. My mom stands out, though. She's a good listener.

F - Favorite type of shoe: Kitten heel, pointy toed shoes. These days I like them in fun colors, like Red or Purple!

G – Grapes or Grapefruit: Both.

H – Hometown: Wyndmere, ND

I – Instrumental talent: Piano & Trumpet. Dabbled with the Bassoon & Oboe...

J – Juice of choice: Light Cran-Raspberry

K – Koala Bear or Panda Bear: They are both adorable

L - Longest car ride ever: Road trip out to Cali w/ my grandparents the summer after 6th grade. Lots of great memories from this trip.

M – Middle name: Anne. Was going to be Suzanne, but then my intials would have been LSD and my parents weren't liking that!

N - Number of jobs you’ve had: Piano teacher, Front desk in Steamboat, Waitress, Receptionist at a Law Firm, and about 4 jobs at Wells Fargo… so 8'ish??

O- OCD traits: Loading the dishwasher. There is only ONE way to do it (thanks to my mom)

P - Phobia[s]: Spiders & small things like mice.

Q - Quote: "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger"

R - Reason to smile: I was blessed w/ a wonderful family & a great group of friends. And my nephews especially make me smile!

T - Time you wake up: Around 6 am

U - Unknown fact about me: I have a scar on my forehead from stitches that I got when I was younger. My sister Emily was swinging a pillow around in circles, I stood up and was catapulted into the tv.

V - Vegetable you hate: I'm not a big Sweet Potato fan.

W - Worst habit: Biting my finger nails when I am nervous.

X - X-rays you’ve had: My wrist. Fractured it when I was in 3rd grade.

Y - Yummiest food my belly likes: Anything my mom makes. Especially at Thanksgiving!!!

Z - Zodiac sign: Aquarius

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

I finished another page turner last night. Was another book that I would have stayed up all night to read... but didn't since I know an all night reading session makes the next day at work pretty painful! Nonetheless, I was still able to finish it in under a week. The story begins on a snowy night in 1964. Norah Henry is in labor but her doctor was involved in an accident so is not able to deliver the baby. Norah's husband, David, ends up delivering the baby. The couple doesn't realize this, but Norah is actually pregnant with twins. The first baby is a healthy boy. The second baby that is delivered has Down Syndrome. Norah was under gas so is unaware of what is happened - before she regains consciousness, David gives the baby to the nurse, Catherine, and asks her to take the baby to a home for mentally disabled people. When his wife awakes, he tells her the baby did not live. He thinks he is doing them both a favor by not subjecting them to the kind of life they would have, raising a child with Down syndrome.

And thus begins this engaging story. Catherine goes to the home that David recommended, but is so displeased by the conditions, she makes a decision that will forever change the course of her life - she decides to move away and raise the baby on her own.

David and Norah return home, but their relationship is never the same. David is haunted by the decision he made and the secret he is keeping from his wife. Norah is haunted by the fact that she never got to see or hold her baby - her husband told her he had it buried while they were still in the hospital. David assumes having a healthy baby to focus on will be enough for Norah, but unfortunately it isn't. Their relationship is forever changed.

The book follows the story of David, Norah, and their son, as well as the story of Caroline and Phoebe, the Down syndrome baby. The whole book, you are left wondering - when is he going to tell her? How could he tell her, and what will Norah do when she finds out that her daughter has been alive all this time?

This story was based on a real story of a man who discovers, late in life, that his brother had been born with Down syndrome, placed in an institution at birth, and kept a secrete from the family, even from his own mother, all his life. The brother had died in that institution. This story haunted the author and led her to write this book.

I recommend this book and give it 4 stars - definitely a thought-provoking, engaging book that is worth checking out!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Know Thyself...

A couple of my friends have done this little 2 question personality assessment and posted the results on their blogs, so I thought I'd follow suit and do the same.

I was skeptical when I took it... how accurate can it be when you are only answering 2 questions? The other 2 (Megan and Betsy) both had different results which matched their personalities pretty well! So out of curiosity, I did the test and think the results are pretty spot-on. You can take the test here if you are interested! (

8 - the Asserter aka 'The Challenger'

"I must be strong"

Asserters are direct, self-reliant, self-confident, and protective.

How to Get Along with Me:
Stand up for yourself... and me.
Be confident, strong, and direct.
Don't gossip about me or betray my trust.
Be vulnerable and share your feelings. See and acknowledge my tender, vulnerable side.
Give me space to be alone.
Acknowledge the contributions I make, but don't flatter me.
I often speak in an assertive way. Don't automatically assume it's a personal attack.
When I scream, curse, and stomp around, try to remember that's just the way I am.

What I Like About Being a EIGHT:
being independent and self-reliant
being able to take charge and meet challenges head on
being courageous, straightforward, and honest
getting all the enjoyment I can out of life
supporting, empowering, and protecting those close to me
upholding just causes

What's Hard About Being a EIGHT:
overwhelming people with my bluntness; scaring them away when I don't intend to
being restless and impatient with others' incompetence
sticking my neck out for people and receiving no appreciation for it
never forgetting injuries or injustices
putting too much pressure on myself
getting high blood pressure when people don't obey the rules or when things don't go right

EIGHTs as Children Often
are independent; have an inner strength and a fighting spirit
are sometimes loners
seize control so they won't be controlled
fugure out others' weaknesses
attack verbally or physically when provoked
take charge in the family because they perceive themselves as the strongest, or grow up in difficult or abusive surroundings

EIGHTs as Parents
are often loyal, caring, involved, and devoted
are sometimes overprotective
can be demanding, controlling, and rigid

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Thirteenth Tale

I finished Diane Setterfield's first novel, 'The Thirteenth Tale', over the weekend. I wasn't sure if I was going to like this or not, but the story caught my eye. And it was NY Times Bestseller so I figured it couldn't be a bad book. I actually liked it more than I thought I would. It was difficult to put down which meant I stayed up way past my self-imposed bed time last week. The book is about a biographer, Margaret Lea, who has been contacted by a famous author; this author has given multiple interviews throughout her life about 'her story', none of which are true. She's nearing the end of her life and is finally ready to tell the true story of her past and has selected Margaret to pen her life story.

I don't want to give anything away, but the author's life is extremely interesting, with lots of twists and turns. Much of her story has to do with her relationship with her siblings. Early on, we learn that Margaret also had a twin so understands the dymanics of that relationship.

I can't really say much else about the book without ruining for someone who would potentially read it, but it's worth checking out. I give it 4 out of 5 stars!

Friday, October 10, 2008

We all need something to smile about...

It's been a tumultuous week, ladies and gentlemen. I've made a conscious decision not to look at my 401k. I mean, I have at least 30 years before I retire so there's no use getting my panties in a bunch over it right now. I'm also trying to speak happy thoughts to myself and not worry about how this economic downtown is going to impact my job options upon completion of my MBA in May... I sure have a knack for graduating during economic downturns... The ecomony was also down in 2003 when I finished my undergrad degree. Yea for me!

Anywho, in light of all that is happening, I figured we all needed a little something to smile about. Direct your attention to the book to the right. It is absolutely fabulous! I stumbled upon it while browsing the Wild Rumpus website. It was on their bestseller list, so I had to check it out when I was at Barnes & Noble recently. It is adorable. I had the hugest smile on my face when I was reading it! If I had a niece, I would buy this book for her. Maybe I will buy it for myself for days when I need a smile? What makes it even more endearing is that I have a friend that is an adult version of Nancy. Her name is Heidi and she is one of my nearest and dearest friends. And she loves all things fancy! I met her in college, so didn't know her during her childhood, but I am confident that this book is an accurate depiction of her personality as a child.

Seriously, check it out! It's bound to make you smile!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Learning a new trick...

Another weekend has come and gone - can't believe it's Sunday already. This was a pretty quiet weekend for me. I'm really glad that by living by myself for the last 4+ years, I've become ok with alone time. Granted, we all seem to need our alone time to recharge, but this weekend, I went from Friday night to Sunday morning without seeing anyone I know... So yah, nothing like 48+ hours to make a person a little stir crazy.

After staying in to wtach a movie on Friday night, I decided I needed to be around people, even if I didn't know them... So I headed to Mass at Holy Family and then over to Eden Prairie Center. They have a big B&N in that mall. I wandered around for quite a while. You know how some people have a dream that they'll be in the produce section one day & will reach to grab a cantaloupe (or something) and at that very moment, a person of the opposite sex grabs the same cantaloupe - their hands touch, and the rest, as they say, is history? I have the same dream/vision, but instead of reaching for a cantaloupe, we are both reaching for the same book. Yah, that didn't happen on Saturday night... oh well!! So after buying a couple books that I didn't need (but are on my to-read list) and a knitting pattern book, I went to see a movie.

This is not my first time going to a movie alone. I've been to probably 1/2 a dozen, maybe more. When I tell people that I went to a movie alone, many people stop me and say, 'what? You went to a movie alone?' I also wonder why this provokes such surprise - since when did going to a theater require company? It's not like conversation is part of going to a movie. Granted, I miss having company during the trailers - it's not as much fun doing the thumbs up/thumbs down game alone... but aside from that, it doesn't matter if you are there on your own or with 10 people. I digress...

Anywho, I went to see the latest Nicholas Sparks novel that has been made into a film, 'Nights in Rodanthe'. Even though Richard Gere is old enough to my father, I still think he's pretty hot. Gray hair and all, I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers... back to the film, though. Richard Gere and Diane Lane acted together in the movie "Unfaithful" and had great on-screen chemistry in that movie. I was a little disappointed in their performance in this film, though. But maybe part of my disappointment had to do with how different their relationship was compared to the relationship in the book. The central theme of the relationship was different, but they way they interacted with each other during their time at the Inn was completely different. Not that this is surprising - the movie is never better than the book, but unfortunately the acting wasn't stellar enough to overcome the difference between the book and screenplay. It was entertaining enough though, but a bit of a downer... which I knew since I'd read the book and thus knew how it ended... Suffice it to say there was a whole lot of sniffling echoing through the theater. And I wasn't one of them! I cry pretty easily, but this film just didn't do it for me.

This morning my friend Amanda had a few of us over for brunch. Amanda & her husband have a little boy that will be 2 at the end of the month and another friend, Leslie, and her husband have a little girl that is around 3 months. It was great seeing both kids and getting caught up on what everyone's been up to. I have quite a few college friends in the MSP area, but we just don't see each other as often as we'd like due to everyone's busy schedules.

I spent the rest of my afternoon doing homework and watching 'Sex and the City: The movie'. Which is awesome, by the way. I saw it in the theater when it came out in June, but it was great re-watching it. Fashion, drama, and sassiness, all balled up into one film - who wouldn't love it! After that, I got down to business... and pulled out my new knitting pattern book that I purchased on Saturday night. I've knit four scarves now and am ready to learn some new tricks - CABLES! I love cable knit sweaters so was so so excited to start knitting some scarves that feature the cable knit. This of course requires some new tools (a row counter and cable turner).

Knitting cables is relatively easy... but requires counting stitches, so no more mindless knitting or multi-tasking (knitting while chatting on the phone or watching a movie). I started my first project which features a single cable through the center of the scarf. It's in the early stages, but here it is!!

Stay tuned to see how it turns out!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Two years ago this weekend....

Two years ago this weekend, I ran my first marathon. It's hard to believe that I was in that kind of shape two years ago. Since then, this little thing called the "MBA Program" came along and consumed my life. I still run, but not nearly as much as I did before I started the program!

Aside from my family, I haven't talked about the Marathon experience all that much, so I thought I'd post about what it was like to run that race!

The date was October 7th, 2006. I drove myself to Minneapolis where the race was starting. The energy around the Metrodome was insane - everyone was nervous and excited. I wonder if they were thinking what I was thinking - 'can I really do this?' Of course, telling all your family and friends that you are going to run a marathon kind of alleviates the option of not doing it...

As I was stretching, I ran into my cousin's husband, Jamie Zuel, which was pretty random considering 10,000 people were running this race!! After exchanging hellos & the 'good lucks, see ya out there' comments, I met up with a friend that I had met at the 20 mile training run.

The race started off well. It's a pretty interesting experience... they have port-a-potties along the course, but guys 'can't be bothered' to you use one, so just turn their backs to the course, and, well, relieve themselves by a tree or something. So as you are running, you'll see lines of 10-20 guys, all relieving themselves!!

The fans definitely make the race for the runners. If/when I run my next marathon, I will definitely put my name on my shirt so that I have encouragement along the way. They say that the marathon can be divided into 2 halves - the first 20 miles and the last 6.2. This is because at the 20 mile mark, most runners 'hit the wall' - which basically means their bodies run out of glycogen (what carbohydrates are converted into) so the body then has to burn stored fat which does not burn as readily. I can't say that I truly ' hit the wall' - those last 6.2 miles were tough, but I never felt like my legs were made of lead or anything like that, as other runners experience.

Knowing that mom, dad, Kevin, Julie, Abby, and Andrew were at the finish line, waiting for me, kept me going. Also, during those last 6.2 miles, lots of spectators would look you in the eye & tell you that you were doing awesome & that you could do it. I can't tell you how helpful it was to have those strangers out there, encouraging you to keep going! I pretty much said non-stop Hail Mary's for those last 6.2 miles; it helped to repeat those prayers and focus on the words v. the pain I was feeling in my legs. I also thought alot about the people on my prayer bracelet (I prayed for 1 person/mile).

My finishing time was definitely nothing to brag home about (4:50 when you back off the 10 minutes it took me to cross the start line) but I was proud to have finished it at all. A small percentage of the population runs a marathon, so I was happy to be part of that small group of people who had accomplished this major feat. It's kind of an indescribable experience. There are people with Vaseline along the run so you can battle the chaffing that inevitably happens when you run that long. There are people with jolly ranchers so you have sugar to help keep you going. Then there's the volunteers who give up their Sunday morning to pass out Gatorade & energy gel. It was a wonderful experience, and something that I hope to do again.

It's funny how my thought about those 26.2 miles have changed since October 7th. Shortly after the race, completing a marathon didn't seem like such a big deal. Training for a marathon warps your sense of what a long run really is. When asked what I would be doing for a run that weekend, I'd often respond and say, 'oh, just doing a 12 mile run'. However, 2 years later, a sense of accomplishment has returned. I'm proud of the fact that I finished the marathon. And hopefully I can give it another go in the future. My friend Nicole just emailed me this week to see if I was interested in doing the Fargo marathon. So I might be doing another one as soon as May 9, 2009.... We'll see!!