So...in case you haven't noticed, I've been off my blogular game the past week. I can think of a few good reasons...my favorite of which is something I like to call

Guatemala's Revenge!

Brian and I, and 59 other people from our church (49 of which were teenagers) (yes, 49 teenagers) spent a week in Guatemala. Pretty much all of us got sick, me included. We had numerous discussions about poop during that week.

Some of us are still sick. Me included. Fortunately, these days my discussions about poop have significantly decreased in number.

And for that reason, I have been doing the bare minimum. Blogging didn't make that list.

I'm expecting I'll need another week or so of respite before launching into Real Life head-on.

First up: starting my new job!

I'll also post some photos and info about the trip. Because all in all, it was pretty cool.

In the meantime...BRB


Secret online sales!

If you go here: www.ruelala.com/invite/bashtree

And you sign up,

I will be one happy girl.

Have you met the world of online secret sales? There are all kinds of sites out there. RueLaLa (the link above) and One Kings Lane (I can send you an invite there too!) are my two favorites. Rue is where I got my Birks at half price! I love those Birks. They came into my life right at the time that my 10-year-old Birks, purchased in Germany in high school, bit the dust.


Lists of Five

Five People (Dead or Alive) I Would Invite to My Ideal Dinner Party (Catered)
  1. Zooey Deschanel
  2. My mom's mom
  3. Harper Lee 
  4. Michael W. Smith
  5. Heidi Klum
Five Things I Like About My Body (Biologically Speaking)
  1. I like my high, veiny former dancer arches
  2. Hair
  3. Ability to nap when it's too hot
  4. Nebulous blue/green/brown eye color
  5. hourglass figure! it's jumbo-sized right now, but it's there!
Five Things I Am Afraid Of
  1. Tornadoes
  2. Dying in a fire
  3. Roaches
  4. and Spiders
  5. Melanoma
Five Books That Make Me Happy
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird
  2. Redeeming Love
  3. Princess Bride
  4. Simple Abundance
  5. The American Heritage Dictionary (I love etymology!)
Five Impressions I Have Attempted
  1. Brian
  2. Marcus (my brother)
  3. Backstreet Boys
  4. anybody with a Scottish accent
  5. "every person ever on tv or the radio" according to Brian
Five Things I Have Done at Work (Instead of Working)
  1. Cried about how much I hated my life
  2. Cried about how much I hated my job
  3. Played the pirates game on facebook
  4. Called my friend in another office so that we could both look busy and unavailable without actually being busy or unavailable
  5. Made a meal plan for a week and a giant massive shopping list
Five of My Favorite Adjectives (Not Alphabetical)
  1. (so) meaty
  2. quixotic
  3. resplendent
  4. poop-brained
  5. stupid
Five Awfulnesses I Would Eradicate Immediately, If Given the Opportunity and a Little Red Button
  1. Water-borne diseases
  2. Muscle spasms
  3. Temperatures above 85 degrees wherever it is that I happen to be
  4. Abusive fundamentalism
  5. Cancer
Five Things I Wish I Had But Do Not
  1. A pretty singing voice
  2. 4-limb independence
  3. Willpower
  4. More papillons
  5. A mortgage
Five Ways to Win My Eternal Affection, Eternally
  1. Give me chocolate
  2. Give me challah
  3. Buy me books
  4. Give me fabric and/or yarn
  5. Did I mention chocolate?
    Five Fails That I Enjoy Anyway
    1. Bowling
    2. Sewing
    3. Re-telling jokes and funny stories
    4. Dog ownership
    5. Walking
    My Five Favorite Expressions
    1. allez cuisine!
    2. whatever
    3. your mom goes to college
    4. dude!
    5. your turn
    Five Things I Will Be When I Grow Up
    1. copy editor for the New Yorker
    2. city dweller
    3. friend of a famous person
    4. wedding gown saleswoman
    5. book shop owner
    Five Things On My Life-Long To-Do List
    1. hike into the woods and camp for a week
    2. publish something
    3. study Russian
    4. own a bmw 3 series
    5. see Japan

    What's on your list?


    This is not the story you think it is

    Yes, I'm still on my marriage self-help book, but this time with a memoir twist.

    Back in August an essay from the NYT circled around. You probably saw it. I did, and I was (like many other) amazed by it.

    The author, Laura Munson, was informed at the beginning of one summer by her husband that he did not love her, he probably never did, and that he was moving out. He added that the kids wanted him to be happy and would understand.

    In short, she didn't buy it. The essay is remarkable; the response was astounding. (Read it if you haven't yet.) She recently published the book she wrote that summer, chronicling her 'marital adventure' and how she made it.

    Having my fair share of experiences witnessing marriage gone bad, I knew I wanted to read her book.

    Well, I just finished reading it. I'm in that post-intense book reading stupor and I'm feeling compelled to write. To ponder here at the keyboard, and ask myself a few unanswerable questions.

    Her memoir is less how-to or tell-all, and more personal journey. She writes about taking responsibility for your own happiness - not letting things beyond control determine your happiness. Throw in the 'live in the moment' catch phrase/concept and you have an idea of the gist of her journey.

    But hokey as it looks in that paragraph up there, this is really can be a life-altering concept if you let it. I'm beginning to think about my own journey, and how much I might be letting non-me things determine my own, for lack of a better word, happiness. Her experience of her husband's dis-affection was one long exercise in stepping back, letting go, and keeping an eye on the big picture - on his big picture. At least that's how I read it.

    Let me just say this: This is not the story you think it is is a powerful book. I'm not sure I'm ready to wrap my head around everything it offers. Usually when I finish a book, my favorite thing to do is pick out and start my next book. But when I finished this one, I sat up, set it down, and kind of stared for a minute. Walked around, tried to chew on it, and thought about nothing instead. I thought about how I might have reacted to that situation...where I might have reacted differently...what might have been my motivation to acting that way. I don't have kids, I don't have an idyllic homestead in Montana (though I would really really like one) and I don't have 15 years of marriage behind me. Would I yell and slam doors, or could I find some composure and stability? Would I shut down, or could I find patches of joy every day? Would I hit the Stoli when the family comes to visit for two weeks with raised eyebrows? Would I find ways to be productive, or would I simply have to focus on survival? Who would I look to for support and advice - is there anyone in my life, right now, who could play that role for me? (I do have the tricky-fun situation of having nearly my entire social life wrapped up in Brian's place of employ, after all.)

    Fortunately, I don't have to face this situation right now. My questions don't necessarily have to be answered, in theory or in practice. I get that, and I am so grateful. But I do know what it's like to wonder how, or if, you will make it through the next week, or day, or conversation, with your life intact.

    If you've ever been in that place, you might want to read Laura Munson's book. And then you might want to read it again. I know I will.


    got apps? or app suggestions?

    You've seen it before. You'll see it again. It goes something like this:

    Hey guys! Guess what! I'm getting an iphone! I need some apps to go with it! Send me your suggestions!

    Conversely, you'll see lots of people blogging lists of their favorite iphone apps. It's kind of a popular topic, and with good reason.

    Trouble is, I never read those. Because I didn't have an iphone. 

    But hey guys! Guess what! I'm getting an iphone!

    Actually, I'm getting Brian's old iphone and HE'S getting the new one. Not to be technical or anything. 

    But anyway - do you have any favorite apps? Do you know of any good lists of apps? Anything else you can tell me?

    If I get enough responses, I'll even compile the list to share. How's that for a deal?


    Self Help & Marriage

    I have a confession to make: I love self help books.

    Especially relationship books.

    Oh, and domesticity books. The two topics are surprisingly related, at least for me, at this point in my life. High five to all the 'housewives' out there! But that's another thought for another day.

    I've been reading self helpy books for a while now. I probably started really reading self help books in college, though if you want to get technical, I started in about the 7th grade when I started reading devotional books and magazines.

    I come across the self help books, especially the relationship ones, in different ways. Some books catch my eye in the book store. Some are recommendations from friends. Some get a lot of buzz on TV or blogs.

    Many of the books I've read are not memorable, because they don't tell me anything I didn't already know. And a few of the highly buzzed about and recommended books did nothing for me *cough Captivating cough-cough Love&Respect ahem* despite guarantees that they would be life-changing. There's nothing wrong with these books, they just didn't hit me where I needed to be hit, I guess.

    Every now and then I come across a self help book that I find to be very helpful and worthwhile. Most of these are marriage-related - or at least relationship-oriented. The first one, though, is NOT. The title of the book is It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken. I read this when I was going through a particularly bad (read: devastating) breakup, and it was just the kick in the pants I needed to get over the guy and get on with my life. That book empowered me to take and event that could have been months or years of agony and listlessness, and turn it into a major growth period instead. Three months after the breakup, I met Brian; less than a year later, we were married. If I hadn't have read this book, I wouldn't have been ready to notice the man who became my husband. A lot of my healthy self-esteem and unwillingness to be anyone's doormat can be attributed to this book, as weird as that sounds. NOTE: This book has some attitude. It's for grown-ups. There are bad words in it. Not gratuitous profanity, but there is some. If you don't like that, don't read it.

    Some of the other marriage books that I've read and thought were helpful are the classic Mars/Venus (If you haven't read it, finding a good summary would probably be enough. It is a little repetitive and probably 75-100 pages too long, although the concept is really strong if you can get past the corny metaphor.) and His Needs, Her Needs. I'd recommend these to just about anybody. Other greats include the Love Languages (also: the 5 Languages of Apology, also great...I need pretty much all of them to consider an apology an apology, hah) and Boundaries, though these two are the foundations of some 'sets' of books and are not strictly for marriage relationships (though some of the subsequent editions are).

    All of the books I've mentioned so far appear pretty often on the shelves of thrift stores I frequent. The links are to Amazon pages, where they are also pretty cheap. And in case you're wondering, I am NOT an Amazon affiliate because I live in Colorado and Amazon hates Colorado.

    I also recently read Sacred Influence (aimed at wives) and thought it was great, and I'm hoping to read Sacred Marriage (the precursor) next. My dear friends Dave and Angie gave us Sacred Marriage when Brian and I were engaged. I wanted us to read it together, but that never happened. I started to read it myself, but it kept bugging me that Brian wouldn't read it with me (something about grad school and internships and no mental stamina or something, mumble mutter) that I put it down. I'm over it (the being bugged, I mean) and will start reading it once I get back from an upcoming trip. It's high time.

    For some reason I can no longer recall, in mid-May I went on some kind of Marriage Book Library Binge and I got a ton of marriage books from the library. I've been poking around at them for a little while, but I've only finished one so far. And it was, in my opinion, GREAT. It's called Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. The title is a little misleading, I think, because it's not as much about using laughter to improve your marriage (I had images of lots of variations on the Have Fun! theme) as it is a marriage self-help book written with humor. And it's a really good one. In the first half, I had lightbulb moment after lightbulb moment. This is a book I plan to buy and re-read eventually, so I can make all my little notes in the margins. The second half-ish deals with specific issues that face marriages, and since a lot of these issues aren't relevant to us, I didn't glean as much from those chapters, which, I mean, is fine. They would still be helpful to people in those situations, I'm guessing.

    So in short: if you're looking for a self help book, particularly a marriage or relationship book, I'm your gal :)

    Do you read self help books? If so, what are some of the ones you've really liked or found to be helpful?