Amanda Gates
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A Musings - January 2010

For Part I.

In April, Rubin decides to Lighten Up in regards to parenthood. She takes more time for projects with her girls, instead of sighing about the waste of time they may seem to be. She decides to sing more, which not only brightens the household but also helps her keep her cool. She makes an effort to remember that the years really go fast and she needs to cherish each moment with her family. In this chapter, Rubin also showed her less favorable side, but as a parent-to-be it's always nice to know others get frustrated and angry at their children. She also writes about memory, "People remember events better when they fit with their present mood, happy people remember happy events better, and depressed people remember sad events better. Depressed people have as many nice experiences as other people - they just don't recall them as well."

In May, Rubin wanted to Be Serious About Play: have more fun, be silly, stray off the path. One of the best lessons in this chapter was about discovering what she thought was fun. There are plenty of ideas of what sounds fun. Sure, I can imagine that rock climbing or scuba diving could be a blast, but for me, it would be more an entire experience of stress and nervousness. She gives you the permission to realize if reading and watching TV is what's fun for you, that's OK. Don't underrate what you think is fun.

In June, it's all about Friendship. She yearned to remember birthdays, not to gossip and make new friends. Being there for friends can be a very fulfilling lifestyle. Helping them, supporting them, anything can turn around and make you very happy. She writes, "I certainly get more satisfaction out of thinking about good deeds I've done for other people than I do thinking about good deeds others have done for me." I somewhat agree with this, but I also get very warm-hearted when I think of the lovely things my girlfriends do for me. I think it's kind of equal both ways.

July was about money. Can money buy happiness? Rubin finds her answer, but also finds many disagree about this topic. It's another interesting chapter. I like when she gets into "overbuying" and "underbuying." I'm definitely an underbuyer. I don't buy toothpaste until right when we need it. We can be down to one roll of toilet paper before I buy more. We've thought about a membership to Costco, but that would really go against my underbuying personality! However, she points out that sometimes overbuying can be OK because it could mean less trips to the store, less stress about being out of things...

In August, Rubin Contemplated the Heavens. While part of the chapter was about spirituality, it didn't completely focus on that, but also on gratitude and, again, being thankful for what you have. One point she makes that I really responded to was about being excited when people are excited for you. She says she's not easily thrilled. Neither am I. But there are plenty of people around me who get thrilled for me about certain things (ex: baby inside me). Me? I'm always thinking ahead - where will this lead, what will this bring? Perhaps my less-than-thrilled nature makes me seem ungrateful for their excitement. I discovered that's something I could work on.

So, what do you think? Can money buy happiness? Do you get more from doing for others or what others do for you? Are you an overbuyer or an underbuyer? Do you remember happier moments better than sad ones or vice versa? What do you consider fun?

Posted: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 06:34 | Comments: 3

One of my bffs turned me on to Gretchen Rubin's blog The Happiness Project, a blog she started while she was working on her book The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. Rubin's blog is interesting; she posts six days a week relevant interviews, thoughts, quotes, etc. that have to do with happiness. I've learned some good lessons from her blog, while other posts aren't quite as helpful. I've gotten off reading it daily recently because I've found she's started to repeat herself a bit, and now that I've read her book, it feels even more redundant. But, for a new reader, it's quite inspirational.

One day as she was sitting on the bus, Rubin asked herself about her happiness. Now, many people could think (including another of my favorites, and probably an opposite of Rubin, Penelope Trunk), "Hey lady, you work from home, have two beautiful girls, a successful husband...what don't you have to be happy about?" And it's kind of true, but then plenty of us have it pretty darn good, but the daily grind and stress of it all can weigh on our true happiness. So, if you can get past that and just hope to learn from her year-long pursuit of happiness, you'll find the book is very good.

As she worked on her happiness, she came up with Twelve Commandments (i.e. "Let it go" or "Identify the problem") and Secrets of Adulthood ("People don't notice your mistakes as much as you think," and "By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished"). She came back to these throughout her year, and I found these were some of the points I loved most and latched onto the most. I also loved that she wasn't a memoirist who had to travel great distances to find happiness. She writes, "I didn't want to reject my life. I wanted to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen."

The book is very honest. She doesn't fly over the times she gets frustrated. She doesn't hide that she gets crabby or feels resented. A huge beef for her is doing things for her family and not getting a "gold star." She wants that gold star, but that's not how life is. Reading about her practicing this (to do things and not keep score with her husband) was very interesting and relevant to anyone who is married. We all feel resentful or taken advantage of sometimes, but is it really worth the fight? No. I appreciate the fact that Rubin lets it all hang out.

Each month Rubin worked on a specific goal for her happiness, adding to each month and by the end of the year hopefully doing it all at once. January - Boost energy. This involved sleeping more, exercising more, getting organized. Very obvious New Year's resolution stuff, but as we all know, very practical and stuff that works at making us feel better if we just stick to it. Her tactics for organization and her idea to just act energetic were very inspiring.

February - Remember Love, which hit on nagging, expecting praise, fighting right and showing your love for others. If you're in a serious relationship, this chapter is great, especially if you live together. Rubin was very honest about her relationship with her husband - and it's always interesting to read about other people's relationship. She writes, "It wasn't perversity that kept Jamie from being a sympathetic listener; not only was he constitutionally less oriented to having long heart-to-heart conversations, he also tried to avoid any topic that got me upset, because he found it so painful to see me feeling blue." This I can understand.

March - Aim Higher. This month focuses on her work. She started her blog in March; I find it humorous that this woman who loves reading, writing and taking notes wasn't sure about blogging - she was made to blog! She also tried to learn from failure and ask for help. More important lessons. One goal: Enjoy Now. A paragraph I loved, "It's rare to achieve something that brings unadulterated pleasure without added concerns. Having a baby. Getting a promotion. Buying a house. You look forward to reaching these destinations, but once you've reached them, they bring emotions other than sheer happiness. And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals another, yet more challenging goal... The challenge, therefore, is to take pleasure in the atmosphere of growth, in the gradual progress made toward a goal, in the present."

This post is already pretty long, so I'll write more about the book in another post.

Posted: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 17:48 |

I just finished The Help, a novel by Kathryn Stockett. In this book, Stockett writes about the white ladies of Jackson Mississippi in the early 1960s and their "help," the black maids who raise their children and clean their homes. This book made several Best of 2009 lists and received several good reviews when it came out early last year.

I loved this book. Stockett, who grew up in the South herself and was raised by a black woman, tells the story of these maids in an interesting way. One precocious, young white woman named Skeeter decides to write down the stories of the maids in Jackson. This is no easy task, because if any of them gets caught, they're in deep, deep trouble. But many brave ladies come forward and tell Skeeter their stories of abuse and discrimination, but also of love and pride. The chapters alternate between Skeeter and two maids, Aibileen and Minny, who are vibrant characters all on their own. Once the stories get written down, it's a question of whether it will get published, and if it does, just what the heck will happen (to Skeeter, to the maids, to the community, to the country)?

The book touches on many issues in the South during that time like segregation, violence, unfair wages, the civil rights movement and more. You get a taste for the time frame with mentions of Martin Luther King and JFK. As I read, I kept thinking, 'Wow, this seems like such a long time ago.' But really it wasn't, and that's so sad. To think this was the way the country was, riddled in hatred and complete ignorance, less than 50 years ago. How pathetic and ridiculous. And with readers feeling this way, I think that's what makes the book shine. You root for these ladies, you feel disgust for the villains and it makes you want to keep reading to know how it's all going to turn out.

Like the reviews say, Stockett had to walk a fine line when writing this story. It could've come out very harsh against either side, or been completely sugary and unrealistic. She seemed to walk the line just fine, though being raised when and where I did, I can't say for sure (here's a review that asks some interesting questions, like does Stockett have a "right" to tell this side of the story?; the comments are interesting too). But ultimately, it's a novel meant to entertain readers, not necessarily tell it like it was. I got completely sucked in. I laughed and I cried a few different times at the end. I also wondered just how long it would take for Hollywood to turn this into a film. Not long at all.

Posted: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 01:29 | Comments: 1

Cool news: Ann M Martin is a writing a prequel to The Babysitters Club. It takes place the summer before Kristy had her big money-making idea.

I loved these books. I think I read 30 of them at least, if not more, so I'm glad the series is getting another chance in the spotlight.

Edited to add: Whitney over at PopCandy also posted about this news. She even mentions the graphic novels, which look really cute!

Posted: Tue, 01/05/2010 - 07:47 | Comments: 3

I recently finished Oxygen by Carol Cassella, a practicing anethesiologist living in Seattle. Cassella uses what she knows to write this novel about an anethesiologist living in Seattle. The story follows Marie, a single doctor, who puts people to sleep for a living. Unfortunately, Marie loses one patient, a child, and the book takes the reader on the journey of a malpractice law suit.

I liked Marie as a character. I enjoyed learning more about anethesiology as a career - it's much more complex and interesting than I imagined it was. It's also interesting to read about the workings of a hospital when it comes to malpractice. I believe as a doctor, Cassella must know these situations fairly well, even if she's never been sued herself (or maybe she has, I don't know), so I took this part of the story pretty literally. Being sued seems like a somewhat lonely position for a doctor, however you're also part of a "club" because so many doctors get sued at some point in their life. I also liked the side story of Marie's sister and father.

However, I'd say the book is just OK. I felt it was a little too long, a little too much about the case (the reader could get the idea in half as many words, I think). The book was also fairly predictable. I figured out the ending after reading just a few pages, and it just wasn't that satisfying of an ending, really. It all kind of added up to an episode or two of ER, which isn't bad necessarily, just not completely fulfilling or all that compelling.
Posted: Mon, 01/04/2010 - 06:35 | Comments: 1