Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lost in Shangri-La

Somehow, I messed up getting the link from goodreads for this book, so this doesn't look like most of my other book blogs.  But I figure you'll manage just fine.

This was a World War II story that I had not heard before, which made it refreshing.  It felt, at times, as though the author spent too much time diving into the background of the characters and not just getting on with the action.  My husband read the book, too, and at times we both felt like, ok, that's nice to know, but HOW DID THEY GET OUT?!?!

At time, the author's writing was a little juvenile, and some of the comments were trite, but overall this was an interesting and enjoyable read.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to get organized and my pink glitter lip gloss

Many people probably make New Year's resolutions along the lines of get organized, but I do not.  I'm a very organized person.  But there's always room for improvement. 

Remember my resolution about wearing makeup and leaving the house looking like an adult?  Or is that not exactly how I phrased it?  At any rate, the new year is always a good opportunity to try to mesh together your vision of who you are with who you actually are.  In my vision of myself, I'm a little taller, have better hair, and have no problems finding the perfect jeans.  Alright, I suppose that's my fantasy of myself, not my vision! 

So anyway, in my attempt to leave the house looking like the organized, responsible adult that I am, I'm trying to wear makeup.  I actually don't mind wearing makeup.  I dislike having to take it off.  But that's not the point here.  I have a lot of makeup for someone who doesn't actually wear that much of it, mostly because my mother can get it for free from Lancome. 

Somehow, I have a lot of lip gloss.  By "a lot" I actually mean three tubes, which isn't really all that much, except when you stop and consider that I don't like lip gloss.  Not at all.  I don't like how the brush never gets all the way to the bottom of the container, so you've always got product you can't use.  I don't like how sticky it is.  I don't like that my hair is always getting caught in it.  Even though I live in Southern California, I don't plump my lips, so lip gloss manages to get stuck in all the fine lip wrinkles I have (look closely, you have them, too).  I don't like how it doesn't go on evenly.  I just don't like lip gloss.

However, I also don't like wasting stuff.  Even stuff I don't like.  (I know, I really need to get over this.)  As sort of a humorous wedding gift, someone gave us a random combination of "sexy" things, including a CD of romantic songs, some warming lotion, and glitter lip gloss.  (First, I would suggest that this is really not an appropriate wedding gift--it felt more like a goody bag from a bachelorette party, and secondly, Captain America and I didn't really know what to make of it--this wasn't someone close enough to us to know about our sexual habits, and how do you write a thank you card for this?  It was just weird.)  Anyway, so I have this perfectly good glitter lip gloss, except that I don't like lip gloss, and the glitter is really big--almost like confetti, so you can really feel it on your lips.  And when I wear it, I feel like I must look about 14.  I'm not saying adults can't wear glitter.  I have sequined shirts, and glitter eye shadow, and I currently have a few pieces of tinsel tied into my hair.  But there's something about this glitter lip gloss that just seems really immature.  Which is totally the image I'm trying to project when I leave the house.

(I tried to find an image of my lip gloss on google, but apparently it's so horrendous that I couldn't even find anything that came close.  So then I thought I'd just take a picture of it on my lips.  But I haven't showered from the gym yet, so a whole-face pic is out of the question, and all of the ones I took of just my lips are a little scary.  You're just going to have to trust me that this lip gloss is a terrible idea.  Unless you're seven.)

So I've decided to get rid of it.  Clearly, I have very few problems if this is such a momentous decision on my part.  At the same time, I decided to get rid of all of the other perfectly good, but not useful to me, junk that had been taking up residence in my makeup bag.  Like pink blush.  I'm a pinkish person to begin with, and inevitably, if I wear pink blush, I look like an Asian who's had 4 glasses of wine.  Again, not exactly the image I'm looking to project when I leave the house.

Meanwhile, in another part of my life, I expensed some Tazo Joy tea.  It's a nice little black tea that's only sold at Christmas.  So, naturally, I bought three boxes.  And by boxes, I really mean tins.  Which is fantastic because I was able to put all of my eye shadows into one tin, and that way I don't have to dig them all out of my makeup bag to find my mascara.  I really like eyeshadow.  It's fun to play with.

And this got me to thinking.  I'm of the opinion that if you want to get organized, you probably own all of the tools you need, mostly because if you have enough stuff that it needs to be organized, probably somewhere in that stuff you have things that can be used to organize said stuff.  This is especially helpful if you want to get organized AND stick to a budget.  This is not helpful if you want every document stored in a pristinely labeled file that's been color coded, but if you have time to keep track of that sort of thing, you should really volunteer to do something useful or something.

So, in my medicine cabinet, I have a few little things that just don't stand very well, and are constantly falling my chapstick (I do like chapstick.  A lot.), my eye cream, etc.  I figured that I had to own some sort of small container I could put these things in so that they'd stop falling out of the cabinet.  My first thought was our salad-dressing-sized Tupperware containers.  But then what would I do with the lid?  I periodically go through our Tupperware and throw out everything for which I can't find the corresponding top or bottom.  I didn't really want to do this because the salad-dressing sized containers are really useful.

But then I remembered that we received, as part of the Christmas white elephants that we did with Captain America's family, a little Japanese tea set.  It's brown and adorable and I love tea.  But I drink tea in big mugs.  Not shot glasses.  So I put this set in the dining room, figuring we'd use it when our friend E comes to visit and needs to play tea-time. 

So, I decided to use one of the tea cups in my medicine cabinet.  The result was a success!  I found a way to organize some things without having to buy something new, and I did it in a way that didn't annoy my husband (which is always a potential side effect of me rearranging things).  Ta-da!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

After Roy by Mary Tannen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is probably the best Mary Tannen that I've read.  The ending of this book is more of a question than a conclusion, which is interesting.  One thing Tannen does that I don't care for is that she introduces a bunch of characters right away without explaining their relationships to each other or why they are important.  I guess this is supposed to be a clever literary device, designed to make the reader go, aha! But I find it a little annoying.

Also, I can't really figure out who Tannen is writing for.  Her books are easy to read, but I don't think they're young adult, but they're also not really adult novels.  There's a decide simplicity to them.

This one was interesting because one of the main characters, Maggie, is trying to rehabilitate chimps in Africa.  One interesting thing Maggie thins is "just as when one of the chimpanzees comes flying to her in fright, she has to remember that Didier's fears are not necessarily her own."  This observation clearly illustrates the psychological premise of projection: when you assume someone else will feel the same way you do about a situation.  Everyone projects--this isn't a criticism--it's one of the ways we emotionally relate to each other.  But I think it's always useful to be reminded that we don't have to feel the same way about something as someone else does.

One final note about the book.  Two of Maggie's friends visit her in Africa and when they return, they observe that she's become like someone who's truly found a religion--that she is able to disregard everything that is not truly important and just focus on what is valuable to her.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

So I paid off my credit cards...sort of

Because you have nothing better to do than keep up on my life, as you may recall, one of my resolutions for 2012 was to pay off my credit cards.  And today, I've accomplished that.  Sort of. 

I paid off the entire balance my credit card company thinks I owe.  I just happen to think I owe an additional $232.92.  I've double and triple-checked my math and compared it to my statements and everything, and I can't figure out the problem. 

The way I see it, though, is if Chase doesn't think I owe them anything else, then my credit card is paid. 

So I'm on to my next financial goal of depositing $5K into my IRA. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Reading LifeMy Reading Life by Pat Conroy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Less than a week into the year, and I've already finished a second book on my list!

I have never read any of Pat Conroy's other books, so I can't compare it to his other works. This book was a wordy, but well-written ode to the joys of reading. So, for me, it was a bit like preaching to the choir. However, there were parts that made me say "I do that, too!" For instance, Conroy keeps a journal of words and phrases that he reads and likes. That was something I've always wanted to do, but never knew what I'd do with it. Thanks to Conroy, I've realized that I don't have to do anything with it.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

The PromiseThe Promise by Chaim Potok

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book of 2012 done!  But something seems to be wrong with Blogger's time stamp script, as I scheduled my first book review of the year to be published in a few days (I dislike it when people write more than one blog in a screws up the organization of their story in my mind).  We'll see what happens with this one.

Chaim Potok is a tremendous writer. The one criticism I have is that I wish there were a glossary of his Jewish words in his book. Usually, he defines the word the first time it is used, but there are a lot of them that are unfamiliar enough to me that I don't remember them.

I had no idea that becoming a rabbi was such an ordeal, but I guess I hadn't really thought about it too much. It is interesting to watch Reuven and Danny grow and mature, and to watch their friendship grow, too.

There's always a lot of thinking in Potok's books, but in the sort of way that thoughts feel like action. I recommend this book.

Somehow, I always manage to forget something I want to say about a book.  I really valued this passage:

"The Orthodoxy in which Abraham Gordon had been raised by his parents in Chicago became a riotous mockery to him about one year before he entered the university. He never really rebelled against his religion.  He simply stopped taking it seriously.  Rebellion, said Abraham Gordon, is a conscious act of the will directed toward the remolding of ideas or institutions whether by force of by persuasion.  Turning one's back upon ideas or institutions is therefore not an act of rebellion but an act of disengagement.  The old is considered dead.

"All through college he considered the old dead  And yet, strangely enough, he found it impossible to abandon the rituals of the tradition.  The entire theological structure upon which those rituals were based had disintegrated into a joke: creation in six days, the relevation, miracles, a personal God--all of it.  But the rituals--particularly prayer, kashruth, the Shabbat, and the festivals--had intrinsic value for him; and so he continued to observe the rituals while no longer believing in the theology, all the time gambling that he would one day develop a new theology for the old rituals."

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, #1)Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

See, only a few days in to a new year, and I've already read a book not on my reading list!

CS Lewis is a talented writer who's use of language is incredible. However, his descriptions of Malecandrea became rather long and tedious for me. If I were a naturalist, I probably would have enjoyed them, because it was described in such a way that I felt like it was Walden on another planet.

Also, I know that most of Lewis's works contain religious allegory, of which I am only able to distinguish the basest level. I am not a religious scholar, and am not that religious at all, so while I appreciate how his Narnia chronicles make religion easy to understand, I think it might be wasted on me.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Virginia's 12-Step Process for World Domination

Or, in other words, my new year resolutions.

Yes, it is that time again. Most of my resolutions this year focus on becoming the kind of person I am in my best imaginary scenarios of myself.  Yes, I am a pretty good person, but I still feel like I spend a lot of time feeling rather disorganized about my life--not in a where-are-my-car-keys? sort of way, but in a what am I doing with myself? sort of way.  I know where my car keys are--in front of the breadbox where they live.  So at least I don't have to add that sort of resolution to my list.

One of the first things I did this year was organize my sock drawer.  I have a lot of socks.  And one of the things I'd like to do is look like the person I'd like to be.  I have a friend from when I worked at Cricket who is always upbeat, positive, has on good clothes, and always has good hair.  I mean, I've seen her in jeans/sneakers/ponytail, but she always looks good. So anyway, the easy step in the process was to organize my sock drawer.  I wear some silly things to the gym.  I mean, really silly.  I have Godzilla running socks.  As in Godzilla, breathing fire and destroying a skyline.  They are silly, but they don't really reflect the image of someone who is put-together. 

Because, if you think about it, the people who look put-together at the gym do not wear Godzilla socks.  And the people who look put-together look more fit, even if they're really not.  And since I carry all of my weight in my tummy, I automatically look less fit than I really am.  Not that I care all that much about the opinions of the other people at the gym, but when I look in the mirror, I don't feel like I look like someone who has their act together.  So I organized my sock drawer. 

Okay, so clearly exercising more and losing weight are on my list of things to do this year, since I felt the need to organize my sock drawer in order to go to the gym.  Everyone tells me I look fine (other than my mother's comments about the photos from Aspen and my sister's observation that my boobs were huge again--but at least this time they're the same size and aren't hanging at my belly button), so I must be wearing the extra weight pretty well, but the scale and my pants dictate otherwise.

I'm sad to say, but I think I'm actually going to have to go down the eat less weight-loss path rather than the exercise more path.  So, I've decided that, at least for the short term, I'm going to be a vegetarian.  When I lived with a vegetarian, I weighed about 15 pounds less than I do right now (I also exercised more and socialized less, so while the algebraic equation of my happiness level may have changed [Happiness=xExercise+yFood+zFriends], I'm still happy with my life, just not my waistline).  So anyway, while I have met chubby vegetarians, it's not common.  And this shouldn't affect Captain America's life too much since we never have dinner together anyway right now, given our work schedules.

Another resolution is to try to work no more than 10-hour work days.  Which would be fantastic because then I'd actually have time to go to the gym.  Also, I'd be less exhausted and crabby.  And finally, my payscale doesn't really warrant me working more than that. 

I also have some financial goals for 2012:
  1. Pay off my credit card. 
  2. Put $5K in the IRA account (this is one of those things that because Obama thinks we're rich, offers us no actual tax advantage, but the conservative-accountant part of me thinks is important anyway.  See, even accountants can behave irrationally when it comes to money).
  3. Pay off one of my student loans.
  4. Have $20K in savings.
I'm also going to embark on using the one minute rule/touch it once rule.  Technically, these are two separate rules, but to me, they go hand-in-hand.  The one minute rule states that if it would take you less than a minute to do, to just go ahead and do it.  Like putting away your running shoes.  The touch it one rule states that you should figure out what to do with something the first time you touch it.  The obvious example is mail: throw away the junk, put the magazines on your bedside table, and pay the bills.  But we all sometimes put the mail someplace else just to deal with it later.

Back to looking like the person I'd like to be, I'm going to actually try to start wearing makeup in 2012.  Or at least wearing it and deciding if I actually hate it or not.  I mean, I own a bunch of makeup because my mother tests products for Lancome and they're always giving her samples, but it doesn't make sense for me to own makeup that I'm never going to use. 

Finally, this wouldn't be a list of Virginia's resolutions without a reading list.  In 2011, according to Goodreads, I read 53 books, up from the 31 Goodreads thinks I read in 2010.  I say it like that because Goodreads doesn't count a book you read in a particular year unless you specifically state the date on which you finished the book.  I don't always remember to do this.  My reading list for 2012 consists of 34 books, some of which I've already read, and some of which I've started but haven't finished:
  • My Reading Life
  • The Promise
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard
  • World Changing
  • After Roy
  • The Guns of August
  • Breakfast of Champions
  • All the King's Men
  • The Looming Tower
  • Lost in Shangri-La
  • The Summer of my German Soldier
  • Life of Pi
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • Feeling Good
  • The Blind Side
  • A Perfect Mess
  • The Complete Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Healing Powers of Chocolate
  • Bound Feet and Western Dress
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • Cracking India
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter
  • The Slave Girl
  • Butterfly Burning
  • Cutting for Stone
  • The Help
  • A Clash of Kings
  • A Storm of Swords
  • A Feast for Crows
  • Man's Search for Meaning
  • Les Miserables
  • The Secret Life of Bees
  • The Lovely Bones
  • First Family
There will of course be other books that I read, but this is the preliminary list.  I think I'm going to have a pretty busy 2012.  What resolutions has anyone else made?