Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thoughts for a Great Wednesday

The dark cloud over, or in, my head that was haunting me last week is gone, hooray!  Safely back on the other side of the doldrums, I can see clearly again and am more overwhelmed today by all the blessings surrounding me - blessings that I can usually see and appreciate - like the joyful noise of a chirping bird in the morning (seriously, this brings me such happiness on days that my mind isn't clouded), the appreciation of the beauty of a spring world awakening, a bright sun shining in the sky.  I often take for granted the many blessings that surround me - I don't see them.  But thankfully my eyes and ears have been opened.

So on to some thoughts for Wednesday....

1 - First, you have to watch this video.  It makes me so nervous just watching it - it's crazy...

2 -Second, no Lost this week, so y'all are spared my random musings....I know, I know, don't be so disappointed.  It's all good - it'll be back next week.  Then you will have to put up with my mourning after the show ends in about 4 weeks.  Tears spring to my eyes just thinking about it...

3 - I wonder what people used to do when they didn't have a way to get in touch with each other except through letters.  Explanation for that thought - Yesterday, I tried to get in touch with my brother.  I sent him two texts, a phone call, and even Facebooked him throughout the whole day, but heard nothing, at which point I started to get paranoid and immediately my head went to wondering if he's alive...has he been attacked? Did something happen to him in his apartment? Would his roommates check up on him?  Turns out he was fine - I got a Facebook message back from him, but I only got it the next morning when I turned my computer on (because I'm not like one of those cool kids who has a Facebook on their phone).  But how did people not go crazy when their brothers or sisters or kids or parents went off and were pioneers?  Did they just assume they would never see them again?  What is a brother or father was press-ganged into service in the British royal navy?  How did families survive in such uncertainty?  It definitely is a modern luxury that I take for granted, this instant accessibility of all my loved ones.

4 - There are some great and thoughtful articles permeating the interweb.  A few that I stumbled upon worth sharing...two thoughts from Donald Miller, one on confidence and faith and the other on successes and failures

This article is from the New York Times about the field of psychiatry and how many current psychiatrists are more quick to prescribe medication before actually listening to the problems of their clients - they only listen far and deep enough to diagnose a set of symptoms and then prescribe a set of drugs that will chemically alter the make up of their clients' brains, mixing and matching and medicating more if the symptoms don't resolve.  Hearing this admission from a doctor, a psychiatrist himself, really upsets me.  I don't have a problem with taking medications when they are truly needed to help a person.  But when it has been shown that a person listening to the patient can have the same effect as a pill, I ALWAYS want to have the option presented to me that is an alternative to drugs.  Anyway, it is an interesting article from an industry insider and well worth the time taken to read it.

Another interesting article that came out today on the evil of Powerpoint and its influence on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  I'll let Seth Godin take it from here.

And that is all for now because I realized that I ran out of time. Happy Wednesday!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review: Committed

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Elizabeth Gilbert's follow up from her beloved "Eat, Pray, Love" is a great romp through the institution of marriage. A mixture of opinion, facts, interviews, observations, historical interpretation, and memoir, "Committed" is probably not what most people expect from the woman who penned EPL. Weaving together both a personal narrative of her and her fiance's travels and ordeals with the US Immigration Service and reflections on what it means to be married, Gilbert offers an interesting look at the biggest commitment that two people can make to one another.

I enjoyed this book. I thought it was funny at times, poignant at others, and all around interesting. It has been some time since I last read "Eat, Pray, Love", so I didn't find myself disappointed with the tone, or subject matter, or the style of how the book was written - all that meaning to say, I wasn't trying to compare this book to EPL. And I'm glad that I didn't, because I think this book should be appreciated on its own feet. If EPL didn't exist, I think this book would be received as the interesting read it in fact is. It gave me lots to think about and reflect upon, and it was really interesting to read in light of all the other material that I have recently been reading about women, marriage, careers, and life.

I don't agree with everything that Gilbert says or presents as fact in the book - and I'm sorry, the history nerd in me would like a works cited page and footnotes for all the research and works cited throughout the book. The Acknowledgments section just didn't cut it for me. But then again, I am a big nerd.

But I do believe that anyone that is contemplating marriage or thinks about being married or would like to be married or is married, should take an afternoon or two and read this book. The last chapter was probably my favorite, since it was really in that chapter that I heard Gilbert's "voice" really come alive again, the way that it was in Eat, Pray, Love. All in all, a great read.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thoughts for a Rotten Wednesday

First of all, I probably shouldn't be posting any kind of blog post about my thoughts this week because I generally try to stay away from blogging, or Facebooking, or any kind social media communication, or really any kind of communication at all, when I am in a rotten, depressed kind of mood because people generally take it the wrong way.  And I also don't believe in expounding ALL of my thoughts and feelings in Web 2.0 form.  So suffice to say, though I am having a rotten day, augmented by rotten, dreary, rainy weather, I will not dwell on the rotten state of my being for the rest of this post, and instead focus on the few things and thoughts that have crossed my path this week that I find worth spreading the word about.

1 - The concept of hope has been something that I feel has been coming across my path for the past couple of months.  To be honest, I've never really understood what hope is about - much like I never really understood what the concept of a heart was until I was enlightened through some of John Eldredge's texts.  For someone who can have a hard time in dealing with the abstract at times, something as nebulous as "hope" has always sounded like an empty sort of optimism - like it is a tireless attempt to always be positive and always an attempt to find the silver lining in whatever circumstance you find yourself in.  But I'm learning that hope is much, much more deeper than just a half-hearted attempt to see the bright side of things.  Through various readings I've run across, this concept of hope is slowly revealing itself to me.  One reading that I want to pass along is from a dear friend, Emily Thompson.  Her latest blog post poses some great questions and thoughts about hope.

2 - I've just recently started reading Donald Miller's blog and I have to say that I'm really enjoying it so far.  He had a really interesting post today about whether not our personality influences our theology.  Check it out and leave him a comment!

3 - Lost Thoughts:  First, I think you should check out Jeff Jensen's "Countdown" post on  It is one of his better posts and thoughts about what is going on in said Lost world.  Second, I think the Willy Wonka poem that they are using in the promos offers a clue as to what is coming in the next few weeks.  Here is the verse in total:

There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going…
Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of hell a-glowing?
Is the grisly reaper mowing?
Yes, the danger must be growing…
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing!

Isn't that great?? I think it pretty much sums up exactly how I feel about these final episodes - I have no way of knowing where we are going with this thing.  I'm just along for the ride at this point.  I have heard that some people will die before the show's end and here's my prediction for the next major death - Kate.  I don't think Ms. Austen is going to make it off the island, which sort of resolves the Kate-Sawyer-Jack love triangle, by removing the main element of the triangle.

I also don't think that Desmond is dead - I don't think Sayid shot him.  I don't think that FLocke appeared as Christian Shepherd to Jack - in fact, I don't think FLocke is any of the "ghosts" that have appeared on the show.  And I think that the real John Locke's soul is still within his body that the Man In Black is apparently inhabiting and maybe there is a war going on within his soul, a la, Stephenie Meyer's "The Host". 

4 - I hate answering the telephone.  Especially on a rotten day in which it seems to ring incessantly. (Whoops! Sorry, my rotten mood snuck in there - my apologies.)

5 - This past weekend I got to take a group of high school girls to DC.  I really had no agenda for the day, other than to go visit the National Gallery of Art, which I'm sure they were all dying to go to :).  But something that I've always heard, but honestly have rarely done, is that as part of "contact work" with high school kids, invite them along with you to something that you were planning on doing - even if it's a mundane errand like laundry.  Well I decided that I wanted to go into DC, and so invited them along, and wonders of wonders they all wanted to go!

Then the fun part started...

As we were Metro-ing into the city (and sitting in crowded trains waiting on track delays), the girls came up with a game among themselves in which if they didn't answer a question correctly, they had to ask a stranger to do something with them - like, ask 5 strangers for a high-five.  This quickly evolved throughout the course of the day from just a dare to assigning each of us with a task.  I just let the girls run with it - they were being much more creative than myself and were having a great time coming up with these tasks.  They assigned me to get a stranger to do the "Bend and Snap" with them, a la Legally Blonde.  I wasn't sure that we were actually ever going to do our assigned tasks - the girls were talking and talking about it the whole day.  But then, as we were walking on the National Mall, one of my girls took it upon herself to make her's happen, and promptly got a photo of a piggyback ride on a stranger's back.

The gauntlet was laid.  I knew that we now had to make this happen and everyone had to get in on the fun.  Please note - it is not in my personality to ask random strangers to do random things and take a picture of it.  But really the Holy Spirit must have taken over because there was an infusion of confidence and boldness that took over and helped the girls to accomplish their tasks.  It was an unexpected opportunity to lead them in something outrageous - something that only usually happens at Young Life camp.  It was so fun, really cool, and helped build a memory for these girls that we will always have.  It may not "look" like anything about Jesus was talked about, but believe me when I say, He was there.  That's probably the coolest thing about being a Young Life leader - you get to see Jesus show up in the most unlikely places and at the most unlikely times.

5 - More MuteMath love...they released a beautiful new song called "The Fight".  Check it out.

And that friends is all I have for this week.  Sorry for the rotten mood diatribe - this Thoughts for a Wednesday caught me in a funk. And so I'm taking Scarlett O'Hara's words to heart today..."After all...tomorrow is another day!" 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Good Moon Tonight

World, I am so excited and happy to spread this news...Some of my dear, dear, dear friends, Katie and Tommy Webster, have entered the world of blogging and I couldn't be more happy!!  I am personally so excited because I have encouraging/nagging them to enter the world of blogging because I believe that two such extremely wonderful and talented people should be out there spreading their ideas in the big wide world of the interweb.  They give so much of themselves to their communities and churches and are such beautiful lights in the world, that I am just so excited that other people will get to discover what I already know about them :).

Their little daughter Olive is a literal living miracle (and star of her own Hallmark card).  Tommy is a wonderfully gifted musician - which are such shallow words to describe his immense gift in music - as well as in possession of one of the most loving spirits that I know.  And Kat is not only one of the funniest people I know, but also an intentional and beautiful woman, who loves Christ and people unconditionally.  All three have such amazing gifts and, again, I can't wait to read their stories, antecedents, and ideas on life, love, and Christ.  Check them out at Good Moon Tonight!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quick Note...

I like to update my blog list from time to time to reflect what I'm particularly interested in reading and who I find to be interesting enough to read to share their link.  But in an effort to condense, since I find A LOT of people who are interesting enough to read, I've decided that I'm going to move all fashion blog links to my blog list on my own fashion blog, Small Time Style.  So if you have a hankering for some great fashion and design ideas, hop on over and click away!

Some Interesting Reads...

A few links to some interesting articles that I've run across lately...

This one comes from NPR and provides an interesting take on why redistributing wealth through heavily taxing the rich and not taxing the poor could backfire and cause more problems for the deficit that we are already in...

This one comes from Shane Claiborne and provides an interesting take on the emerging church "brand" and all the debate surrounding it.

This one is about some men that have embraced an "Into the Wild" lifestyle and chosen to live a "simple" life.

And finally, this one, on how the prints and colors in fashion are a reflection of people's changing attitudes toward the recession and dismal outlook that has pervaded people's lives.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thoughts for a Wednesday

It is still technically Wednesday, so of course I have some thoughts to share :) And I begin with...

1 - LOST!! (Bet you couldn't guess)  I really don't have much to say other than I have no clue how this show is going to end, and there are only like 4 episodes left.  You would think that we would be getting to the so-called "climax" point, but I have yet to figure anything out.  Of course last week's amazing episode with my future husband at its center was a game-changer and it sort of continued on through this week's episode.  Basically though any episode that contains Des is good in my eyes.

2 - Deadliest Catch is back! And if you're not watching this show, I highly recommend getting into it.  You don't need to know too much background about the captains and crews from previous seasons, but just in the first episode the action is already way intense.  Besides, you will quickly find out that there is nothing more thrilling than Mike Rowe's voice saying, "The vast Bering Sea...".  And each moment with Captain Phil is poignant because you know that you are watching the chronicles of his last months on the Bering Sea.

Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity3 - Speaking of good TV, the local PBS station here in DC has been showing some really interesting programming this week.  On Monday they showcased a program on the Holocaust in North Africa and Arabs that helped Jews to escape death (see yesterday's post, It's Complicated for more thoughts on this program).  Tuesday was a Frontline program on all the back room deals and politics of the recent health care bill that was passed.  Tonight was a program on genocide called "Worse Than War" about how genocide never comes as a surprise and always is driven by politics.  While this isn't the light, fluffy stuff (no Project Runway or Bachelor here) that I normally use to distract myself, but occasionally I have to remind myself that I need to continue learning about these important subjects - engage the side of my brain that got somewhat left behind in college :).

4 - I have more thoughts, but it's getting really late and they are all escaping me.

So apologies - just 3 real so-so thoughts for this Wednesday.  I promise to do better next week!  And everyone should watch Stephen Colbert's episode from tonight because it is amazing - I don't have any more thoughts because I have been laughing too hard at his brilliance.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's Complicated...

As Monthy Python would say, "And now for something completely different".  No book reviews or random thoughts today.  No, today I am still digesting a program I watched on WETA PBS last night called "Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust in Arab Lands"
Among the Righteous
First, this is a subject that is near to my heart.  The conflict between Israel and Palestine and Israel and the Arab world at large is something that has interested me since high school, so much so that it drove me to be a foreign affairs major at UVA.  Seeking to understand the root causes of a decades old conflict that still dramatically affects the shape of our foreign policy to this day has always been vastly interesting to me.  And yet while it is vastly interesting, it also is vastly depressing and disheartening - which is why I work at a local cabinet company instead of a think tank in Washington DC.  So when I read about this program airing, I was very keen to watch and learn more about Jewish and Arab relations.

It was fascinating to say the least.  Whenever the Holocaust is discussed, it mainly focuses on the fate of European Jews and the atrocities that were uncovered at the concentration camps in Europe.  But the fate of Jews living in North Africa during World War II is hardly ever discussed or mentioned.  Truly, unless you take a university history class on World War II, most discourse is focused on the battles that occurred in Europe or the in the Pacific, but hardly ever talk about the campaigns in North Africa, which was where the tide of the war truly started turning.  But did you know that there were more concentration camps across North Africa than there were in Europe?  That Jewish people who had cohabited with their Arab friends peacefully before the war were suddenly singled out by European invaders and forced to either go to one of these concentration camps or wear yellow Stars of David signifying their ethnicity?

What Robert Satloff, the executive director for the Washington Institute of Near East policy uncovers though are tales and stories (that are authenticated and verified through meticulous research and first person interviews) of Arabs who help their Jewish neighbors escape from the fate of concentration camps - much like there were Europeans who helped their Jewish neighbors escape the nightmares of concentration camps.  Satloff sought to show that though these two ethnicities proclaim hatred for each other now, there were some Arabs that saw only their common humanity and were unwilling to be complicit in the suffering of fellow human beings.

What is remarkable, or rather actually sad, about this is how much this history is suppressed by the descendants of these individuals today.  There are some Arabs, because of their political views on Israel, that would rather not acknowledge the heroism of their grandparents during the Holocaust in North Africa.  The view of a common humanity has been replaced with a simmering hatred of Israel and the atrocities that Israel commits against the Palestinians today.  In fact, the documentary showcases a meeting in which Satloff is presenting his findings and a participant becomes so upset that the Holocaust of the Jews is only being discussed and that no mention of the persecution of Palestinians is made, that he storms out of the meeting, shouting and slamming the door on his way out.  It is a reflection of how deep this hurt and hatred runs, that the man could not sit through a presentation about fellow Arabs who helped save their Jewish neighbors from atrocities unimaginable.

The Holocaust served as the catalyst for the creation of a political state based on an ethnicity and religion, and as such its repercussions are as much a part of our present foreign political state as it was in our past.  Without the Holocaust, it is doubtful that Zionists would have been able to make a successful case for the creation of their own political state to the world.  But guilt, coupled with a powerful lobbying force in the United States and the diminished power of the British, helped bring about the state of Israel and the problems of the modern Middle East.  While it might be a stretch to say that if there was no Israel there would have been no September 11th or War on Terror, the justification for those attacks by the terrorists would have been based on other reasons.  And yet, if there had been no Anti-Semitism brought to light by such events like the Dreyfus Affair or pogroms in Russia or most evidently, by the Holocaust, there would have been no need for a Jewish political state.

This is a long tangled history that can fill more than this meager blog post, but "Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust in Arab Lands" has added an interesting layer to these relations that is relevant and almost hopeful, for it shows that when we transcend our ethnic and religious beliefs at times, we find that we are all made of the same cloth.  Hopefully, instead of using religious beliefs to divide, perhaps there will come a time in which we can use them to see what we have in common more than what we don't.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: Chains

Chains Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My good friend recently wrote on her book review blog that the world of young adult literature contains much real fiction and is not just littered with the likes of books like The Babysitters Club, Saddle Club, or angsty teen vampire/werewolf tales (though I will always maintain a love and special place in my heart for Twilight). Upon finishing this novel, "Chains", there is no denying this fact. In fact, maybe some adult fiction writers need to take a page from this book and craft together a feat of story such as this one.

Told from the point of view of a young slave girl during the American Revolutionary War, the ironies of the institution of slavery during America's fight for "independence" slaps the reader in the face. The book is filled with gut-wrenching pain for this girl to find freedom - which is literally stolen from her at the beginning of the book. Freed upon the death of her master, the nephew who inherits all of his aunt's property, promptly takes Isabel and her sister Ruth and sells them back into slavery. And so begins the long and arduous journey to freedom that Isabel is desperate to find once again.

There were so many emotions that I encountered while reading this book - sadness, outrage, hurt, injustice, pain - and yet, I could not put the book down. I essentially devoured it. Extremely well-written, the author's command of prose is almost daring. She moves her story forward at a fast pace, while yet poetically describing the anger and pain that Isabel experiences throughout her journey in New York City. The quotes that open each chapter highlight the irony that runs rampant throughout the book - that a country fighting for freedom from tyranny does not extend that same hope to all men - because they aren't even viewed as human beings.

I wish I had read this book after reading "Bury the Chains" by Adam Hochschild last year, which remains one of my all-time favorite books. And then followed this with "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. I feel like these three books all speak to the same theme and open up a new world of understanding on a subject that seems to be glossed over all too often. Understanding our own depravity towards other human beings can never be told too often in my opinion. It is sickening and that is why books like "Chains" remain more than relevant today.

*The author is going to be releasing a follow-up to this book in the fall of this year called "Forge"Chains!*

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thoughts for a Wednesday

1 - Ladies and Gentlemen, Oceanic Flight 815 is about to make it's final descent.  Last night's episode, "Happily Ever After" was my favorite of the season thus far (only equaled by Richard Alpert's backstory - oh Richard, how I love thee).  But any episode with my future husband, Mr. Desmond David Hume,  is guaranteed to be a great one - did you catch all the nuisances and lines from previous episodes and seasons that were uttered?  I'm glad to see that finally the Sideways world and the Island world merging and coming to a conclusion.  It's like "Yes, please tell me the end!!" intermingled with "No, I don't want it to end!!" I find myself living in between two worlds! (And apologies to all those who read this blog and that paragraph just made utterly no sense to you).

2 - I was driving today back from lunch and had this epiphany (I have a lot of epiphanies while driving) that I feel like I am finally growing up and becoming my own person, my own woman.  I feel like I'm beginning to finally understand "who" I am and what I want.  And I can't put this feeling into any concrete words other than just this general feeling of latent confidence.  I read all these quotes from fashion designers or stylists or magazine writers that say that confidence is the sexiest part of a woman, or as Nina Garcia says, "Confidence is captivating, it is powerful, and it does not fade - and that is endlessly more interesting than beauty."  I don't think I've ever understood what that means, to have confidence.  But I'm beginning to think that it's an attitude that understands who you are and accepts and loves yourself for who you are.  I can count on my hand the numbers of times that I've felt that way - most of them as a result of traveling somewhere by myself - but I'm beginning to feel this way in my everyday life.  It feels good to begin to understand who you are.

3 - If you read this blog at all, you know my love of dance.  Well this weekend I had the pleasure of watching another dance performance, this dedicated to the art of tango.  It is a beautiful, sexy dance that makes me wish I could move my feet with any kind of rhythm (in my Sideways world life maybe?).  But what is even more fun to have a tango attitude - overly dramatic, sexy, stalking-esque, and lots of pointed toes.  And when you try tangoing inanimate objects, life becomes very fun.  Point in case, this photo of me "tangoing" my wall, or as my friend said, my self-timer - either way, a tango attitude brings a lot of sexy to a moment.

4 - You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child?  I would like to coin a new saying, "It takes a village to take care of a single woman."  Because without the generosity and love of my family and friends, I wonder how I would eat or exist and live the amazing, wonderful life I am blessed with.  The only reason I can begin to have confidence in who I am is because of being loved by all the wonderful people who I am lucky to call family and friends.

5 - I hope everyone had a wonderful, blissful, and blessed Easter this past weekend!  I was blessed to spend the entire day with my family (minus my sister who is living Down Under) and most of that day was spent outside on my parents' new screened in porch and patio that they added to the house right before winter came.  This was the first weekend that we all got to sit out there and it was so lovely.  My parents even got a fire pit and we got to toast marshmallows (or actually, as my mom and prefer them, marshmallow a flambeau) and sit around the fire pit enjoying each other's company and the beautiful night time sky.  It was the perfect day and a memory that I will always treasure.

6 - WWWWWAAAAAAHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!  Yes, folks, I did indeed triumph and win my office's NCAA pool!!!  After 5 1/2 years and coming close a few of those years, I finally won!! Unreal.  It marks the second time in my life that I have won an NCAA pool and so awesome.  The ironic thing is that I missed the entire tournament - I did not watch one single game, not even the championship game.  Yes, seriously.  Hey, what can I say - I'm a busy girl?

7 - And Hallelujah, Baseball is back!!!!!! A piece of my life that was missing is finally back.  Long summer nights, dramatic games, every pitch meaning something, the entire pace of a game switching in a heartbeat - there is nothing more excitedly boring to watch than baseball.  My goal is to make it to a Yankees game this year, as well as more than one Nationals game.  I probably have a better chance of succeeding at making it to a Nats game than the Yanks, but who knows?

8 - And spring is officially here!  Really and truly, my heart was rejoicing this morning as I was driving into my office.  There is nothing more beautiful than seeing the trees blossom into amazing green goodness and beauty, interspersed with flowers everywhere - pink, white, yellow, purple - all these amazing gorgeous colors.  The beauty of spring truly makes my heart sing.  Allelulia - the long winter is over and the promise and hope of resurrection yet again bursts forth with song and beauty.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Book Review: If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You by Kelly Cutrone

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I didn't intend to read this book over the weekend, but happened to pick it up and just couldn't put it down, and so over the course of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, I found myself at the end of it, a little bit wiser and entertained.

Basically the book is a little bit autobiographical, giving details of Kelly Cutrone's life and how she got into the PR/publicity business. Along the way she includes details of what really makes a life worth living. I would categorize it as a hybrid business/life advice book. Some of her life advice I took with a heavy grain of salt - being of a different belief system and worldview, I'm not really into "making up your own religion." But I do (obviously) believe that we are here on this earth to live for a higher purpose than sex, drugs, rock & roll, fame, and money. Those things and the pursuit of them are very costly and in the end don't bring the things they promise. These words of wisdom have a little bit more truth to them coming from someone like Kelly Cutrone, who's life is based in that world, than it would from me, a small-town country girl with city leanings.

What I really appreciated from the book was learning more about Kelly's background and how she rose to be where she is now - owner and CEO of People's Revolution, a premiere fashion publicity firm. I loved her when she appeared on "The Hills", a breath of fresh air with her no-bs approach to working, even with cameras rolling in her face. I really enjoyed her own foray into reality television with her show "Kell on Earth", as it showcased what a formidable businesswoman she really is. In her book, she downplays some of the wisdom and knowledge that she has gained over the years, but the proof is in the pudding - she owns and runs one of the most successful fashion PR companies in the world, People's Revolution. Her business advice is what I appreciated the most - from lessons on how to "fake it to make it", the importance of a personal brand, and how to communicate via phone versus email - something that is a lost art (I'm the first to admit my fear of the phone).

Written succinctly and in a very easy to read manner, I would recommend it for a good beach read. However, for those with more conservative tastes, be forewarned - Kelly is not your typical, demure, "refined" woman - she is a B.I.T.C.H. "Babe In Total Control of Herself".

(*Also, as a side note, it was very interesting to read this book right after reading "Flux:Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World". Kelly would have made an interesting case study in that book, and some of the things she discusses about being a powerful career woman (both the difficulties and advantages of) coincided with the themes and discussions in that book.)

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wishing I Was Back Here...

Today I was really missing being at Red Bull BC One and in NYC.  I'm so glad that I will always be able to say that I went to this competition...gosh, I wish I could find a way to get to Japan for this year's!!

(This was one of the best battles of the night - Morris v. Wing)

Book Review: Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World

Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World by Peggy Orenstein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Four days later and I'm still ruminating over some of the lessons that I learned from this book. I think that's telling about its quality. The author, Peggy Orenstein interviews many women in their twenties, thirties, and forties to discover how women handle careers, families, and that ever elusive "balance" between the two. Orenstein wanted to know what decisions these women had made (or were in the process of making) and why they had made them. While she does talk a little about sex, it's really not that central to the core of the ideas in the book - I think the title just includes it as the first word to sensationalize and capture the random browser's interest (it's all about marketing).

I appreciated Orenstein's case study approach to these larger issues, narrowing each age group into three examples of women, and then interviewing and examining each woman on why she had made the particular choices that she had made, and then the ramifications of their decisions. She examines the way that modern women, women who have come of age in the aftermath of the feminist movement of the 70s and 80s, balance the mantra "You can do/be anything that you want" and the traditional family model that most families ascribe to: the man/husband/father is the breadwinner/provider and the woman is the "Good Mother", "Perfect Wife" who stays home with the kids. Orenstein wants to know how do women balance this mantra and the traditional family model, or really, if this balance even exists. Can a woman have a successful career AND family AND be happy and satisfied in both? What kind of sacrifices would need to be made? And does having a family signal a death-knell to a woman's career?

I really resonated with this conflict between the mantra "You can do/be anything you want to be" that girls are told growing up and the traditional family model. In this stage of my life, I am a single career woman, who throughout my entire life, has been told that I can do anything that I want to do - and I have believed it! And why shouldn't I believe it? But what really got me was the truth that the odds are set against a woman having a career.

I've never really given this much credence, but through the facts and stories that Orenstein presents, there isn't much denying this truth. The working world is a man's world, set up for men to succeed and earn more, while careers that are traditionally held by women are valued much less (think financial analysts earning $120k each year versus teachers who earn $40k at best). Or the fact that women traditionally gravitate towards careers in non-profit organizations - but those organizations pay half what a man would earn in a for-profit organization, even though a non-profit actually works to change people's lives! It makes me angry and disappointed. And then the fact that if a woman does climb the ranks in a career field traditionally populated by men, her career gets derailed if she decides to have a child. Her earning potential instantly drops. Also disheartening is that women who do climb the ranks in this man's world have less sympathy for women who are trying to do the same and make different choices than they do with their life. This was a hard truth and bitter pill to swallow, but if I'm honest with myself, my own career mirrors this. Money is generally not all that important to me, but I do believe that my work should be valued at high dollar, and if I'm honest with myself, I don't believe that it is.

Orenstein also explores the family choices that women make - ie, whether or not to have a child, and if so, then when to have it, and then after you have it, who will take care of it and at who's career's expense? While I am not at this stage in life, it was difficult to read about and figure out what decisions would I make. And then the more startling thought was, do I want to even have to make these decisions? Do I want to fall into a traditional family model or do I want my family to look more balanced? Could I work and take care of kids at the same time? Would I want a child so much that I would have one without a husband, like one of the women did in the book? Or will I be 40 and single, a loving and doting "aunt" to my friends' and siblings' children? I can't predict those things now, but needless to say they were all questions that I am still confronting and working through.

All in all, I do highly recommend this book. It is hard to read, to look at the lives of all these women and the sacrifices that they have either made or are going to have to make, and whether it is fair in the first place that they even have to make them. The best truth in the book is the woman in the last case study who tells Orenstein to make sure that she tells her readers "It's not easy". Truly, it's not easy for a woman today to negotiate these decisions and choices, but hopefully, it's not impossible either.

As I was told once, "Who ever said life was going to be easy"?

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Some Love for Jamie Cullum

I love Jamie Cullum - he has a unique sound and style and has the ability to turn popular songs into his own.  I wanted to share this song, his remake of Rihanna's "Dont' Stop the Music" - I'm in love with it.  It is so sexy, subtle, and jazz.  Enjoy!  And check out some of Jamie's other music if you get a chance!