25 random things about me

(I originally posted this on Facebook, but I wanted something semi-fun to post here today, so I thought I’d use this.)
1.I never liked poetry when I studied it in English class, but now I love reading it on my own. In fact, I’m becoming a poetry addict.
2. I closed my mom’s eyes after she died. For some reason, this was–and still is–very important to me.
3. I was the last person in my class to learn to read, and 10 years later aced the PSAT verbal section. Perseverance does pay off!
4. I procrastinate terribly–not because I’m lazy, but because I’m afraid I’ll screw everything up. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies!
5. I think it is a disgrace that Pope John XXIII has not yet been canonized.
6. I took French in high school and college, and Spanish in college, and remember absolutely nothing of either. (edit 2012–I’m doing Rosetta Stone to try and relearn it all!)
7. When I was very little, I wanted to be both an astronaut and a ballerina. Simultaneously.
8. Yes, I really am a redhead. I’m partly Irish, after all.
9. I was engaged (to a millionaire’s son, yet) before I met George and called it off when I realized I’d rather be alone by myself than alone with somebody else. Oh, am I ever glad I waited!
10. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, in addition to whatever else I do with my life.
11.I began a search for my birth mother last year. I haven’t heard anything yet. (edit 2012–She is found, and we are very close!)
12. I feel a little disloyal to my mom for doing this, even though she always supported the idea and even offered to pay for it.
13. I make a mean homemade marinara sauce, with lots of onion and garlic.
14.I used to do lots of drawing with charcoal and pastels; I’d like to start doing it again, but for some reason I’m scared to. (Maybe I’m afraid I’ll, well, suck.)
15.If I could do college over again, I’d major in history or English and philosophy, instead of political science and philosophy. And I’d take four years of Latin, for fun. Yes, fun. (edit 2012–or maybe I’d just do four years of both French and Spanish!)
16. Sometimes I feel as though I am strangely invisible.
17. I never minded being an only child, until both of my parents were gone.
18. I played varsity tennis in high school, and was also in choir and yearbook.
19. I feel very connected to both of my grandmothers, although my maternal grandma died long before I was born, and my paternal grandma died when I was 16–almost 25 years ago.
20. I have ultra-sensitive skin that requires more pampering than a baby’s. Hair, too.
21. The only thing that REALLY makes my back feel better is massage and gentle yoga. And certain muscle relaxers, of course.
22. I would love to do freelance writing but have no idea how to begin.
23. One of the very best days of my life was the day I discovered that dark chocolate actually contains more antioxidants than green tea.
24.My biggest regret (aside from infertility) is that I was supposed to spend a college semester studying in London, which fell through when we couldn’t come up with the extra cash, and then later I was supposed to spend a whole week over New Year’s Eve staying in a friend’s flat in Paris, only to wind up in the ER the night before my flight with a bad case of influenza.
25. When I was 30 I had surgery to correct a crooked jaw–my scoliosis made the lower part of my face grow unevenly.(edit 2012–I actually had three surgeries to correct the kyphosis and scoliosis in my back when I was 17 and a senior in high school.)

books: 2008

  1. The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
  2. Falling Angels, ibid
  3. Chronically Happy: Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness, Lori Hartwell
  4. Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types, David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates
  5. Katherine, Anya Seton
  6. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott
  7. Victorian London: The Life of a City, 1840-1870, Liza Picard
  8. Elizabeth’s London: Everyday life in Elizabethan London, ibid.
  9. Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey, Allison Weir
  10. The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece, Jonathan Harr
  11. Thunderstruck, Erik Larson
  12. Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Storm in History, ibid
  13. The Warrior Queens, Antonia Fraser
  14. Mary, Queen of Scots, ibid
  15. Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King, ibid
  16. Journey From the Land of No, Roya Hakakian
  17. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells
  18. Little Altars Everywhere, ibid
  19. Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal, Alexandria Johnson
  20. The Hidden Writer: Diaries and the Creative Life, ibid
  21. Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, Edward Sellner
  22. Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self, Joyce Rupp
  23. Praying by Hand: Rediscovering the Rosary as a Way of Prayer, Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.
  24. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society, Henri J.M. Nouwen
  25. Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Nouwen, et al
  26. Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir, Joan Chittister
  27. The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully, ibid
  28. There is a Season, ibid
  29. The Story of Ruth: Twelve Moments in Every Woman’s Life, ibid
  30. The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Inner Growth, Gerald May, M.D.
  31. Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal, Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.
  32. How Much is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture, Arthur Simon
  33. The Challenge and Spirituality of Catholic Social Teaching, Marvin L. Krier Mich
  34. Cloud of Witnesses, Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday
  35. Joan: The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint, Donald Spoto.
  36. The Bible: A Biography, Karen Armstrong
  37. How Firm a Foundation: Leaders of the Liturgical Movement, Robert L. Tuzik, ed.
  38. Prayers of the Women Mystics, Rhonda De Sola
  39. Woman, Why Do You Weep? Spirituality for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Sandra M. Flaherty
  40. Touching the Holy: Ordinariness, Self-Esteem, and Friendship, Robert J. Wicks
  41. Thirsty for God: A Brief History of Christian Spirituality, Bradley P. Holt
  42. Pilgrim’s Almanac: Reflections for Every Day, Edward Hays
  43. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  44. Hitler’s Willing Executioner’s: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
  45. Wait ‘Til Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin
  46. Light a Penny Candle, Maeve Binchy
  47. Tara Road, ibid
  48. Quentin’s, ibid
  49. Scarlet Feather, ibid
  50. Silver Wedding, ibid
  51. Evening Class, ibid
  52. The Glass Lake, ibid
  53. Firefly Summer, ibid
  54. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, Geraldine Brooks
  55. People of the Book: A Novel, ibid
  56. The Chronic Illness Experience: Embracing the Imperfect Life, Cheri Register
  57. Dim Sum, Bagels, and Grits: A Multicultural Adoption, Myra Alperson
  58. Lincoln: A Novel, Gore Vidal
  59. Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today’s Parents, Deborah D. Gray
  60. Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest, Christina Baldwin
  61. Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language From the South of France, Kristin Espinasse
  62. Coastliners: A Novel, Joanne Harris
  63. Five Quarters of the Orange, ibid
  64. Chocolat, ibid
  65. A Vision of Light: A Margaret of Ashbury Novel, Judith Merkle Riley
  66. In Pursuit of the Green Lion: A Margaret of Ashbury Novel, ibid
  67. The Water Devil: A Margaret of Ashbury Novel, ibid
  68. The Birth of Venus: A Novel, Sarah Dinanat
  69. Murder in the Rue De Paradis, Cara Black
  70. Murder in Belleville, ibid
  71. Murder in the Marais, ibid
  72. Murder on the Ile Saint-Louis, ibid
  73. Murder in Clichy, ibid
  74. Murder in Montmartre, ibid
  75. Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl, Debra Oliver
  76. Hardball: How Politics is Played by One Who Knows the Game, Christopher Matthews
  77. Lean Forward Into Your Life, Mary Anne Rademacher
  78. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
  79. Good Living With Fibromyalgia, Arthritis Foundation

All while typing this list I kept thinking of two of my favorite readers: Emilie, and my mom. “Oh, I’ve got to tell Emilie about this one,” I’d think, only to remember…I’ve had more time to get used to my mom’s death, but I still can’t help wanting to call her on the phone to tell her every time I discover an especially intriguing, complex, mystery story.

But still. Today, this is how I honor them, and the legacy they’ve left me, a legacy filled with love and appreciation for the power and mystery of language. And I’m grateful, too, for the many friends with whom I still share a mutual love of books, of delight in a cleverly turned phrase, in that magical feeling of discovering something new and traveling on a magic carpet–all thanks to our common love of the written (and spoken!) word.

And mom, it’s taken me many years, but I finally–well, mostly–forgive you for all those horrible puns.

(For an example of another friend who loves words, too, check out Liz’s beautifully written recent post.)

redhead facts

  • Only 2% of the world population are natural redheads.
  • 4% of the American population are natural redheads.
  • The “ginger gene,” the gene responsible for red hair, was discovered by Jonathan Rees at the University of Edinburgh.
  • In 2001 an Irish judge fined a man for disorderly conduct, stating, “I am a firm believer that hair coloring has an effect on temper, and your coloring suggests you have a temper.” (Perhaps the judge was married to a redhead.)
  • Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus depicts the mythological goddess as a redhead.
  • Between 1483 and 1784, approximately 45,000 women were executed as witches because they possessed “witch marks,” including red hair.
  • Redheaded women require 20% more anesthesia to block movement in response to painful stimulation than blonds or brunettes.
  • In 1993 Bruce Springsteen first sang the lyrics, “You ain’t lived until you’ve had your tires rotated by a redheaded woman.”

“You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair. People who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble it is.”
–Anne of Green Gables

the big read

Finally back on the internet, and eager to re-involve myself with the wider world, I’ve decided to follow the lead of my literary friends Emilie, Liz, and Liz by jumping on the bandwagon of the The Big Read. Apparently, the Big Read (a program of the National Endowment for the Arts) guesses that the average adult has only read six of the top 100 books on this list. I didn’t do too badly, I guess, but not as well as I would have liked. Oh well–I won’t have any trouble coming up with new books to read over the rest of the summer!

Here are the instructions:
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline (or mark in a different color) the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (I’ve read quite a few of Shakespeare’s plays, yet I certainly can’t claim of have read all of them–but then who can, apart from Shakespearean scholars?)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s WifeAudrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Ronald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I have to admit I’d like to have a little chat with whoever compiled this list, though. WAY too much Dickens. And including The DaVinci Code but NO Hemingway, Faulkner, Twain or Vonnegut–come on, people!!

tagged

Yay! I’ve been tagged by my friend Liz. It’s a nice feeling, to be remembered, but with my head throbbing and pounding as usual, I don’t think I can come up with anything interesting. Still, I’ll give it a try.

The rules:
1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Post the rules.
3) Share six non-important things / habits / quirks about yourself.
4) Tag at least three people.
5) Make sure the people you tagged KNOW you tagged them by commenting what you did.

  1. I make up weird little songs and sing them to Fiona.
  2. When I was in grade school I wrote a series of stories about “The Fearless Four,” a group of two girls and two boys who solved mysteries together.
  3. I begged my mom to let me start kindergarten when I was four.
  4. Then I begged mom and the priest to let me make my First Communion in first grade instead of second. (In both cases I got my way.)
  5. I’ve sung (soprano) in various choirs since high school.
  6. Last night I dreamed about the Minnesota Twins; at this rate I’ll be as bad as my Aunt Barb, the family Twins fanatic, soon. In my dream, it was opening night at the new ballpark, and I was there with Liz!

I tag April, Kristie, and Vicki!

a house divided no more

Last week we were a house divided, with me rooting for the Red Sox, Fiona cheering on the Cubs, and George pulling for the Phillies. While we are all, first and foremost fans of our beloved Twins, I am a Red Sox fan after spending my college years in Boston, George worked at a TV station in Philly for a while which I guess explains his strange (in my opinion) prediliction for the Phillies, while Fiona falls into the Cubs camp because her nickname is “Miss Wiggly Field.” (Although all three of us have a soft spot for the Cubs.)

So a household crisis was narrowly averted last week by the losses of both the Cubs and the Phillies in postseason play. What if the Cubs had played the Phillies in the NLCS? Or even worse, what if the Cubs or Phillies had played the Red Sox in the World Series? Now we are all safely cheering on the BoSox. YAY BOSTON!!!!!

Fiona sadly contemplates the Cubs’ postseason record

life these days

  • I am a teary, sweaty, fat little ball of grief these days, mostly huddled on the couch watching CNN (or the Twins but sometimes, like most of their recent road trip, that just intensifies the grief) or flipping through magazines
  • Everything reminds me of my mom. which, of course, makes me cry.
  • Every time I try to tackle the mountain of thank you notes staring me in the face I cry and cry until I make myself sick. Something about doing them makes the loss so real or so final, or something. I’d be lying if I said I understood it.
  • I’d sell my soul for one more phone call, or even more, just one more hug.
  • I finally brought flowers out to Fort Snelling on Memorial day. Mom and dad are buried in the same plot and share the same headstone, dad on the front, mom on the back. Ever since going out there I feel as though I’ve lost him all over again, too.
  • A couple of weeks ago mom’s nursing home called to inform me that we owe them $1600. (A long story that involves mom’s social worker repeatedly giving me the wrong information over the past few months and reassuring the mom’s Medical Assistance was covering everything. It wasn’t. The social worker is now in Fargo, however, and out of my reach and of course the billing office doesn’t care.)
  • The next day a hail storm visited us and inflicted thousands of dollars in damage to our roof, siding, screens, window frames, and George’s car.
  • The next day I started shaking uncontrollably. This was on a Thursday. I didn’t stop until George brought me to Urgent Care on Saturday and the doctor prescribed Xanax (a tranquilizer). She should have just shot me with a tranquilizer dart and be done with it instead of giving me pills.
  • I started shaking when we were discussing how I could go to graduate school while we were trying to pay back the $7,000 we borrowed for mom’s funeral plus all of the above. Obviously, we did not come up with an answer.
  • I keep having horrible nightmares that mom is angry with me and I don’t know why. I wake up sobbing and drenched–soaked–in sweat.
  • All I want to eat are cinnamon rolls. Mom always had them for me when I went to visit her, so they are now my sweet gooey comfort food of choice. Hardly any of my clothes fit.
  • My rosacea is terrrible. I keep getting pustules on my forehead and cheeks, which has never ever happened before. It started right after the funeral.
  • I’ve had an ulcer since I found out mom wasn’t going to get better. That was around mid-January. It HURTS and I’m on medication twice a day.
  • I now have a bad sinus infection too.
  • I keep remembering something my both of my parents used to tell me: Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. But I feel so lost without them, like I’m only partially a person now, as though something crucial died with them.