Thursday, December 29, 2011

Maze Runner: A Book Report

Maybe I should just start a book blog because when I start reading a book or a series that I like, I can't help but talk about it. Everywhere.
Actually, it's one of the things that has created such a passionate love/hate relationship with me and reading. I have to be absolutely engrossed in a book to keep reading it most of the time. Either that or it just painfully drags along for months. When I am so into the book, though, it kind of takes over my life. It's all I think about. All I want to do. I stay up way too late at night so I can find out what happens in the next chapter and then am tired the next day for work. Often, I actually carry the book with me in case I can steal a few minutes to read. I'm guessing this is how crack addicts feel about their drug.
My current addiction is James Dashner's Maze Runner trilogy. Ever since being totally sucked in to The Hunger Games trilogy last year, I have found that young adult series are where it's at for me. The language and storyline are cleaner (as much as I love Philippa Gregory and historical fiction, sometimes they just throw extraneous sex scenes in there for the heck of it!) AND they have that page turner quality I remember from being a kid, reading R.L. Stine horrors; every chapter ends with a cliffhanger and you just. have. to. keep. reading!

and here's an Amazon link to this book 
your final Amazon link  

I grabbed The Maze Runner last Friday to keep me company while I waited for someone in court; I really just needed a paperback instead of the hardcover I had been reading. The first 40 pages didn't wow me but once I was able to sit down and give this my full attention and a larger chunk of time, I was hooked. I spent most of Christmas Eve not wrapping like I should have been but laying in bed, devouring this book. On Christmas morning, even though my Hubby got me the book I asked for, I was a little disappointed that it wasn't the next book in the series, which I hadn't known to ask for. It's similar to The Hunger Games in the dystopian society and the set up of trials the characters are exposed to but the setting and story are very different and it has lots of twists to keep it exciting.

The day after Christmas, I ran to the store to get the next installation. The setting for this one has changed from the first book but we get to follow a number of our favorite characters, while new ones are also introduced. I am still in the middle of this one but, like the first, it has twists and turns that keep me wanting to read. Similar to the second book in The Hunger Games, the second book has a different tone because the characters have greater insight into what is happening to them so the tone of the book is different, maybe darker. 

I don't even own The Death Cure yet. I don't trust myself to have it in the house while I am reading #2 because I know I would want to peak ahead. That's how much I want to know what's going to happen.

My point: Run out and buy these books. Read them quickly, as you will want to. Then let me know what you think about them. I need someone to talk with about my theories!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oprah: The Ultimate Achievement

The Lost Girls, who write a blog about three friends traveling and a book about the same (here), posted a link to an article by Oprah today that I felt the need to pass along. It comes on the heels of me and a friend having a recent conversation about how recognition from Oprah has become a sign that you really made it for women of our generation. Whether you like her or not, there's some little part of you that wants to be unique enough, special enough, amazing enough, inspirational enough, innovative enough to be invited to be a guest on Oprah's couch. To have her proclaim to the world that you are just wonderful. Look what it did for all those authors?! And Dr.Phil. And Nate Berkus or whatever his last name is (the point is Target carries his line now and the only thing more universally great than Oprah may be Target).

Once, I actually tried to contact Oprah. This is such an embarrassing story because it's super dorky to think you have an Oprah worthy enough idea that you actually research how to contact her. Do you think all the super special people she had on contacted her or were they humbly sitting at home not even expecting her adoration? They would like you to believe the latter but we all know it takes some good PR to make yourself known to the most influential woman on television. (Let's not even delve into her leaving her show and starting her own network). So anyway, back to my budding friendship with Oprah.....I admit that I was one of the people who loved Oprah's book club. I may not have liked every book but it was a good guide and I read quite a few of them. Around the same time, shortly after college I got a job as a case manager at a homeless shelter that housed women and their children. I truly wanted to mix things up and bring some valuable groups and programming to the organization. Here is where I bring it full circle, guys: I decided to start a book group with the homeless women using Oprah's recommended books!! While a local bookseller was kind enough to donate some books and I was able to create a library, it was much harder to get a number of the same book so we could all read the same thing at the same time and then get together to talk about it. This is where Oprah comes in!! I reached out to "her people", I think via email or something which, at the time, was as good as it got. Here I am thinking, "Oprah is going to eat this up! Book club, homeless mothers!".........

I have to trail off because the reality is just too bleak. Not only did I never get invited to the couch but no one ever responded and even sent me any books for my book club. Sad, right? I know you feel a little heavier in your heart right now and I thank you for your sympathy.

My rejection aside, time has passed and I can accept that Oprah is a busy lady and "her people" probably didn't give her the memo or I would be writing a very different version of this story to be featured in this month's "O" magazine. Since I am confident in that knowledge and I still dream of Oprah starting her show again and somehow shining through in some area and being recognized with the greatest honor that can be bestowed upon someone, I can still enjoy the wisdom that Oprah emanates. And so I give to you The-Top-20-Things-Oprah-Knows-for-Sure. (#s4 and 8 are my favorites).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


This is a sample of what it looks like to provide holiday gifts to 232 (the final count) families who have experienced domestic violence. Donors were amazing this year! My heart was extremely full as I got to see the look on people's faces when they received exactly what they had asked for. One woman who has been especially down the past few weeks actually jumped up and down when she learned she had enough money in gift cards to buy a pressure cooker:)
So I am really blessed to actually get two Christmases. This is one of those times when it is truly better to give than to receive.
My experience with all of this has left me with an overwhelming testimony of service and impressed upon me that it is one of the things I want to make sure any future child of mine learns. I am always so in awe of children who understand the value of putting others first sometimes and wowed by the parents who are able to instill that. Last week in the midst of all the holiday party planning, a mother brought her daughter, who helped to carry loads of bags of goodies that would be given to other children. Later in the week, while visiting my grandmother in the nursing home, a group of carolers from a local church came to sing and among them were two kids. One was probably too young to understand or choose, even, where he was but the other  may have an enduring memory of her parents making service to others a priority and the way it made her feel. Finally, I got a little emotional when the news actually reported a nice story: a little boy donating his "life savings" to buy Christmas gifts for his friends' family who had just lost everything when their mobile home burned down. When the community caught wind of his donation, others matched it and were able to provide a thousand dollars worth of items, including essentials, to this family.
I know there are a lot of holiday sentiment and well wishes being thrown around this week but service is something we can all do all year long. We all have unique strengths that were given to us to help fill in others voids. Use yours wisely.
And, in conclusion, just to lighten things up, I will use a quote from a reality tv show....remember who is writing here!! "Live a life of love and service."-Bob Forrest (Celebrity Rehab on VH1)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stop creeping up on me like that!

Why are the holidays being so sneaky this year? Wasn't it just Halloween? How is it possible that Christmas is less than two weeks away??

Is it age that makes time seem to go by faster? Or is it the weather being warmer that has duped me? I have noticed from writing this blog, actually, that weather is kind of like a default excuse for me. Though I should certainly add that I have no idea how you do it, fair weather friends. If it's not bitterly cold outside, hopefully with some white stuff accumulated somewhere, how does Santa know where to find you?

Speaking of, I'm 96% certain that Santa drove by me in Natick, Massachusetts this morning. Along the famous marathon route, as a matter of fact. Although he was definitely not running. It's not the time of year for him to be focused on fitness. He and his fluffy white beard and joyous countenance drove by me in a Jeep Cherokee-like vehicle. It was so convincing that I even looked in my mirrors to catch a glimpse of the back of his car and he had Christmas stickers on his bumper! Could the North Pole just be an alibi location?

Anyway, my apologies for the abundance of question marks present in this post. In related holiday news, I finally put my tree up Saturday. There are even white lights on my stair banister. There's something very warm about Christmas lights that is both exciting and calming at the same time. It makes me want to drink hot chocolate, which I have yet to have this season. Dunkin Donuts is selling a mint hot chocolate this year and I'm waiting for a special occasion to indulge.

At lunch today, we were talking about why Christmas is the season of mint. I am not a huge mint flavor fan year round but in December, if you put crushed candy canes on something, it makes it 15 times more tasty and valuable. We even have some peppermint ice cream in the freezer, a most decadent treat. But unlike the delectable Cadbury mini eggs that are so precious because they can only be found around Easter and in limited supplies even then, we can get our hands on peppermint all the time so why is it so hyped up in December? I move that we incorporate it into celebrations all year long.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Today's recommendations

In line with my decision to deviate from my mold of themed blog posts, today I bring you a medley of my thoughts.
  • A coworker loaned me a copy of The Immortal life of HEnrietta LAcks. Although I just finished a book I had been sluggishly wading through for months and was really excited to start the newest release from Philippa Gregory about the War of the Roses, I had this one with me while I had to wait at the hair salon the other day and it sucked me in. Pretty much every other chapter is the more science focused information and some of that can be skimmed over a bit, in my opinion. It's interesting but I don't want to get bogged down in all the names and every little detail and new invention. The part I am loving is learning about who Henrietta Lacks was and about her family. Actually, I'm probably even more drawn to the broader racial points the book notes, especially they way races were still separated and people liked it that way, even during  my lifetime! I had a similar realization with The Help as I talked with an older woman who grew up in New England and said her experience of racial conflict in that time frame was very different than it was described in the book, which, of course, took place in the South. However, this book is not fiction. It just awes me to draw the parallels in the time frames being discussed of what was happening in the lives of my mother or my siblings or, like I said, even myself as the story moves into the 90's. It's truly almost hard to imagine that life could have been so different in two different places, not so far apart, within the same country. If you are interested, here is a link to Amazon to read more about the book.
  • Yesterday was one of those Dr. Suess days. A terrible, no good day. From feeling sick to finding lots of money missing from my bank account to my car needing to go into the shop and not being able to make it to work, I felt a bit doomed. However, like trials usually do, it helped me appreciate the things that worked well. I was so grateful for my community yesterday. Proud to be a townie!! To mend the money mystery, I talked to people at my local credit union who were super helpful and supportive. It was definitely one of those incidents that, had I been working with a more corporate, big name bank, I would have had a much harder time. Then in dealing with my sick car, I went to my local mechanic, who I adore. When I walk in, I feel like I'm at Cheers. Everyone knows me and I really trust them. How many people can say that about their mechanic? We worked out a deal to get the problem fixed on Monday when they would have a loaner car for me to use. As I drove away, the problem made itself known, loud and clear, that it was not interested in waiting until Monday. While they didn't have a car for me to use to get to work, the patriarch of the company got in his truck and drove me home. Talk about amazing service! And, as a side note, when I paid my bill with them this morning, I used a gift certificate I bought through my town's rotary auction. How's that for tying it all together with a shiny, locally made, red bow?
  • Fianlly, just because I don't think bullet points should be allowed to be used unless there are at least three items, I will conclude with kudos for the Muppets movie. I was not a huge Muppets person growing up, I admit. Sure, I knew about Miss Piggy and Kermit's romance but I couldn't name all the other characters. At one point during the movie I asked my husband where Oscar the Grouch was and he was close to shunning me as he told me I was confusing the Muppets with Sesame Street. Oops. All that being said, even a non-follower like me loved the movie. It had a surprising amount of humor that was beyond the kid level. The songs were a little too catchy, even. Ultimately, it was the kind of movie that just makes you smile. A lot. We left the theater and I kind of felt like I should skip to the car. Hubby definitely vetoed skipping but I think the inclination sums up the good feeling vibe the movie created. I recommend it!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making December a little easier

I just haven't been in a blogging mood lately. Maybe it's because I've been working too much. Maybe it's the cold I have come down with. Maybe it's because I'm not interested, at the moment, in writing or talking about travel and/or home improvement matters. Maybe it's because as wonderful as the Christmas season is, December is a challenging month, emotionally, for a lot of people. Myself included as I recognize an anniversary of a loss in my life. And since that's kind of depressing stuff to read about, I have spared you that (at least until now, right?).
On a brighter note, one of my favorite things about December is a holiday party I get to be part of which provides gifts for almost 250 families who have experienced domestic violence. The week before the actual event is spent playing Santa as we sort through donations from people who have sponsored families or individuals, buying four gifts costing about $25 each for each person from their "wishlists". Sometimes the wishlists are heart wrenching as mothers ask for locks for their doors to feel safer or basics like socks and underwear for their children. Most of the time they are fun, as I get to help stuff bags filled with princess themed toys for three year old girls I have watched grow. All of the preparation culminates in a night where families come not just to pick up their gifts but to share a fancy meal, catch up with former housemates or group members, and get a visit from Santa, himself. I wanted to share a link in case you are interested in learning more about how the cycle of power and control impacts families or you would like to find out how to sponsor a family or even buy gift cards to support the effort: Holiday Gift Program.
In conclusion, I might stray from the stated topics a bit this month as I feel more inclined to talk about the books I want to read some great movie I watched but I hope you will hang in there with me:)