Saturday, January 14, 2012

Moving On

I am giving Wordpress a try.  I hope you will follow me over here:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Best Wedding Ever

I was privileged to cap off Big Meeting week in Honolulu with the wedding of  Stefphanie, colleague and friend.  She and Vince have been together for six years and decided to get married in Hawaii with a tiny group of us and then have big ol' parties with their families upon their return.

It was to be an in-the-park at sunset affair.  The car picked us up at 4:30.  One of these:

We arrived to find the minister, who was a bit nervous because the photographer had not arrived.  Messed up calendar or something, which really sucked because pictures at a sunset wedding require..sunset.  The minister put out a couple of SOS calls and Stef charitably said that if they couldn't get a photographer right away, they would get married and meet a photographer for pictures the next night.

While this drama was going on, there was some commotion on the other side of the park.  Turns out they were filming an episode of Hawaii 5-0.  Half of our group went all fan-girl and ran over to watch.  

I was not one of them.

But Stef's cousin, Holly, spotted Scott Caan, walked right up to him and told him the story.  Wedding.  Missing photographer.  Would you mind if..?  So the bride and groom were photographed with the actor, and that went right up on Facebook.

Around that time, people starting poking their heads around our limo to see if anyone famous was inside.  Heh.

A real photographer arrived and there was a wedding.  It took about ten minutes, which is always great.  Holly held her phone out on speaker so that Stefphanie's mom could listen in.  Not sure whether that was planned or a "While you are on the line" after we called to tell her about Scott Caan.  But it was sweet.

I am not going to give you pictures of people, but here were a couple of the scene.

Then we went back to the hotel for a drink whereupon I left for the airport.

Seriously, it was the best wedding ever.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pictures Like this Are Why I Love the Chicago Tribune

That stupid Marilyn Monroe statue downtown during the first snowfall of the season.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Island Time

Big Company Meeting in Hawaii this week.  Yeah, yeah.  I'd explain why it is all a big pain, but you wouldn't believe me.

Things on the island are more laid back.  Meaning that if a meeting is supposed to start at 2pm, it will really be at 2:15.  Makes me crazy, actually.  But here's where it got funny:

Last night, my sixth in town, was the end of the big functions.  When I got back to my room, there was a gift box on my bed.  I opened the card, thinking it was a Thank You.  "Time to Relax" would have been premature.

The card read (in short), "We welcome you here to the islands of Aloha...You have our commitment that...Please feel free to let us know how we can make your stay more memorable."  Followed by the contact information of five people.

It was a lovely box of Hawaiian shortbread cookies.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

Book 1, 2012

This is another that falls into the category of, "Books that everyone read in school. Except me."   I've been stalling on reading it for awhile, because everyone said it was so sad.  Started with the audio book and finished on the airplane - boy are Brooklyn accents harsh.

Eh.  I've read worse.  (SPOILERS)

The novel follows a family living in poverty in Brooklyn, mostly during the years preceding WWI.  If you don't count the infant mortality rate of women that can't afford medical care (and I don't because it only indirectly affects our main characters), the saddest thing that happens is the daddy drinks himself to death.  It is a tragedy, but we are also told this way in advance.  Also, there is so much forshadowing of the event that an 11-year old could see it.  Since an 11-year old would be the intended audience.  I was braced for it.

There is also a terrible, terrible moment when a 15 year old girl has to decide whether to take a promotion that would make her more money than her fmaily has ever seen before..or go to high school in the fall.  Seriously, I found that family discussion more tense than anything else in the story.

I was very interested to read the mother's consistent feelings about taking charity.  She would rather starve.  And have her children starve.  I am not sure if this was a matter of "a different time" or the immigrant experience, but it was striking. 

I also appreciated the running demonstrations of the ways teachers can make or break the aspirations of children.

I loved this book.  Loved. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Project Linus - Year One

Let's start with my last two blankets of the year:

Blanket 69 starts with this blue fleece from Ikea.  It is large, as seen on a queen sized bed.  So it doesn't need to be cut at all, just run through with the rotary skip stitch blade to crochet.  I forget who in our chapter found this, but at $2.49 it is a great deal.  I bought several and swapped them for prepared fleece, then got one back the next time around.  I forget what the yarn is, but I want to say it was one from Bernat.

Blanket 70 was just your average piece of pink fleece and a Red Heart variegated yarn.  I think it was the Cotton Candy one again.

And that was the year.  70 Blankets is pretty good for Year One, I think.

So as I reflected a bit on the experience and what I want to do in 2012, I had several thoughts.

First, when I turned in my completed blankets at the last Starbucks night, Peggy pulled them out of the bag to put the special Project Linus tag on them and saw that I had a fully crocheted blanket in with several crocheted-edge fleece.  I said, "Yeah.  I'd forgotten how long it takes to do them."  I can finish a fleece inside of one average professional sports game (I finished my first 2012 blanket during the Bears game yesterday).  Fully-crocheted takes forever.  So it is hard to put a number on how many blankets I plan to do next year.

Also, I am still only doing a single crochet.  The ladies at Project Linus are certain that at some point, I will want to branch out and stuff takes longer when one is learning.

But what I can say is that I made time to attend more events than I originally thought I could do.  I  made nearly all of the bi-monthly Saturday events and was a regular at the monthly Wednesday evening gatherings at Starbucks.  I have met a lot of wonderful people who welcomed me warmly even though I haven't a fraction of their artistic skills.

I've said that my chapter is large and active.  I have already offered to help if they are interested in taking the networking to the next level online.  But I'm not sure they even need it!

Overall, I am very happy with the experience and plan to continue as an active donor and volunteer in 2012.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Goal Check - 2011

So here is what I wrote last year and how it went:

At the Refuge, we have all agreed that we need to start organized fundraising efforts. I spent a few hours researching grants that might be available. Of course, I'll have to learn how to write them.

We held a fundraising walk on Memorial Day that raised a bunch of money. Another volunteer picked up the grant writing and ran with it, although I don't know what kind of results she had. Finally, my employer started a charitable matching contribution program that I maxed out in support of the Refuge. I am calling a Win on this goal, but we'd better step it up next year.

At the Library, we have talked a lot about how to keep all of the volunteers better informed. It is really hard to keep everyone on the same page when we are all working one-at-a-time. I owe our director an e-mail on the instructions regarding onsite sales of Amazon listed books.

Didn't make much progress here. Not all volunteers are online so we have relied on a notebook to keep volunteers informed onsite. But not all of us are onsite at regular intervals. We are having another planning committee meeting soon and I expect we will be discussing this again.

I mentioned that I am beginning to contribute blankets to Project Linus. I am not sure how active I can be in the local chapter, but I think I am halfway through my second contribution.

I rocked this one, and will discuss it further in a separate post.

I was disappointed that I only made it to 50 Books read in 2010. However, it seems to be a reachable goal, so I'd better stick with it. I will commit to reading every book that my Book Club selects, even if I am not able to attend the meetings.

I hit 65 books, thanks to the audio section of the Library. However, I did skip one Book Club Book. The meeting was on the day of a Bears game and it would have been a re-read anyway.

I am not going to commit to visiting any place new in 2011. The winter vacation is a repeat, and unless I have a much better idea, I think I want to go back to New Orleans this year.

I did not visit any new cities in 2011. However, I have a vacation to Kauai planned for late winter (been to Hawaii, but not this particular island) and a conference scheduled for Wrightsville Beach, NC (been to the state, not this area). I do not have hard plans for the summer yet.

Several months of the year were defined by my mother's health crisis and the aftermath. For the most part, she is recovering nicely. There are some ugly straggling bills coming in, but it could all have been so much worse.

I did some pro bono work through the Taproot Foundation, finishing up my first project recently. It was mostly a positive experience, but it became very difficult to schedule with my other commitments. I should write up a complete post on that.

We lost two pets this year, Shadow the Dog and Spooky the Cat. We adopted Gibbs as a puppy this summer and made a serious goal of making sure he is well-trained and socialized. His training is going well. He does. not. like. strangers. Also, Sigmund the Foster Grey has decided that he is staying. I believe this is called a "failed foster" and his adoption is pending.

Finally, I have used the Internet to do a whole lot more networking and idea-sharing with other non-profits and volunteers. I have not contributed much to Glenview Patch lately, though.

So. I owe posts to my blog on Sigmund, Project Linus, Great Non Profits, and Taproot. I go back to work tomorrow for one day, then leave for Big Work Meeting. I think it is going to be a good year.

Bragging about my Dog Again

We gave this to Gibbs for Christmas:

I gave him a quick demo by putting a small treat into two compartments.  One was open and he snatched it up.  Then he watched me open the other so he could grab the second treat.  Then I picked it all up and loaded it all up.  Then I gave it to him and this is what happened (only the first minute is really worth watching):

That moment he was distracted was because Kiwi the Grey flew over our heads.  He didn't get the last two, but came back to it later.

I love this dog.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Reading Recap

Not long ago, my friend, Nyla asked what my non-fiction to fiction ratio was.  I really didn’t know, because I enjoy both, so she put me in the 50/50 category.  Not this year:

24 non-fiction to 40 fiction

My favorite fiction reads were The Help and The Book Thief, followed by Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  Favorite non-fiction was My Life in France and Mornings on Horseback.

The most important thing I read was Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which introduced me to many non-profits doing great work across the globe including Women for Women International.  I am now an active sponsor.

New for me this year was diving into the audio books.  I am going through books much more quickly when I can sit and work on a Project Linus blanket at the same time.  I wonder if that isn’t why I read fewer non-fiction – there are definitely fewer non-fiction books on audio in the library.

I still buy books faster than I read them.  And I don’t do as much on the Kindle as many people.  Here was the final tally (the links are to the appropriate page on Librarything.  If you are interested in my "reviews" you might find the "50 Book Challenge 2011" tag down the right-hand side of the page and scroll through):

11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944
Stanley Weintraub

Santa Clawed: A Novel (Mrs. Murphy Mysteries)
Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown

Autobiography of Santa Claus, The
Jeff Guinn

In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story
David McCullough

A Week in December
Sebastian Faulks

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor
Lisa Kleypas

The Christmas Train
David Baldacci

The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir
Ken Harmon

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak

Home for Christmas
Andrew M. Greeley

A Christmas Secret
Anne Perry

Philip Roth

Dr. Zhivago
Boris Pasternak

Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir
Christopher Buckley

The Lake of Dreams: A Novel
Kim Edwards

Travels with My Aunt (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
Graham Greene

Homer & Langley
E.L. Doctorow

The Tortilla Curtain: A Novel (Penguin Ink)
T.C. Boyle

The Castle in the Forest: A Novel
Norman Mailer

John Gregory Dunne

The Last Dickens: A Novel
Matthew Pearl

What If?: Short Stories to Spark Diversity Dialogue
Steve L. Robbins

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Jamie Ford

True Compass: A Memoir
Edward M. Kennedy

Working for Peanuts: The Project Linus Story
Karen Loucks Rinedollar

Changing the World on a Tuesday Night
Tammi DeVille

The Flanders Panel
Arturo Perez-Reverte

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam
Zainab Salbi

Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989
Michael Beschloss

The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal (P.S.)
Lily Koppel

I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel
Tom Wolfe

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer

Erik Larson

Neverwhere: A Novel
Neil Gaiman

Einstein: His Life and Universe
Walter Isaacson

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Seth Grahame-Smith

Exiles in the Garden
Ward Just

Ann Patchett

A Spot of Bother (Vintage)
Mark Haddon

Son of a Witch: Volume Two in the Wicked Years
Gregory Maguire

Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt
David McCullough

The Shack (Special Hardcover Edition)
William P. Young

American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic
Joseph J. Ellis

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
John Steinbeck

White Jazz: A Novel
James Ellroy

Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy
Frances Mayes

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: A Book by Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt

My Life in France
Julia Child

Unaccustomed Earth: Stories (Vintage Contemporaries)
Jhumpa Lahiri

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
Alan Alda

The Help
Kathryn Stockett

Boom!: Talking About the Sixties: What Happened, How It Shaped Today, Lessons for Tomorrow
Tom Brokaw

Suite Francaise
Irene Nemirovsky

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Vintage)
Nicholas Kristof

The Poe Shadow: A Novel
Matthew Pearl

Agatha Christie

A Separate Country
Robert Hicks

The Child in Time
Ian McEwan

David McCullough

Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse
James L. Swanson

The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession (P.S.)
Paul Coelho

THE EDIBLE WOMAN by Margaret Atwood (Paperback - Jan 1969)
Margaret Atwood

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
Mary Roach

The Witches of Eastwick
John Updike

Saturday, December 31, 2011

11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944, by Stanley Weintraub

Book 64 of 50 Book Challenge and Book 9 of Holiday Reading Challenges

Closing out the year with a quick audio book.  Weintraub wrote another Christmas book that I read awhile ago, about George Washington.  So when I saw this at the library's holiday display I picked it up.  

I thought I was done with the holiday thing.

The jacket description lays this out with the old story of General Patton trying to get off an air campaign, being held off by weather and asking God whose side he was on.  The book spends almost no time on that subject.

There was a lot of politicking among the generals in December 1944.  Normally, I like to read about the politicking.  But this was more about who was endorsing whom for more stars and who thought whom wasn't agressive enough in the campaigns.  I didn't need to hear about how Churchill didn't like Ike.  I was really hoping for a book about the guys in the field that Christmas - like that part of Band of Brothers (who made an appearance in this book).

There were a couple of very worthy anecdotes.  American soldiers end up at a lady's farmhouse on Christmas and she is sharing the little she has when the German soldiers show up and they all manage a peaceful holiday together.  The one where the mail had been held up, but Christmas arrives and Dick Byers receives two boxes of treats from his fiancee in the States.  I wish there had been more of those.

And that just about does it for the year.  I will work on a 2011 book recap soon.