Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Next Thing on my List

     I picked up this book because I could relate to the title - The Next Thing on my List.  I am a list keeper: to do lists; store lists; bucket lists.  As soon as one thing is finished and crossed off, I'm on to the next item.  I don't take time to celebrate the accomplishments.  I don't even give it a conscious thought anymore.  I, too, move on to "the next thing on my list."
     When we meet June Parker, she is slowly recovering from a car accident that killed her passenger, Marissa.  June and Marissa were not friends; they were barely acquaintances.  The women had just met at a Weight Watchers meeting.   June finds a list of twenty things Marissa wanted to do before she turned 25.  Plagued by guilt, June decides to complete the list before Marissa's birthday. 
     Some of the items on the list were stereotypes and could have dragged the book down into cliches.  However, Jill Smolinski never let the characters or plot follow the predictable route. 
     I enjoyed the characters and found their flaws made them more lovable.  Although the ending was a bit abrupt, I enjoyed the conclusion of the list. 
     Since finishing the book last week, I have been thinking about what would be on my list and how someone else would go about finishing it in their own way.  Interesting thoughts to ponder. 

19 Varieties of Gazelle

    This is a book of poems written by Naomi Shihab Nye. She is an Arab-American writer.
     Her poetry is moving and eloquent. She captures images like a camera stopping time. She also has a unique perspective on the world that I haven't read before.
     The poems about her experiences in America after September 11, 2001 were powerful and uplifting, even as they broke your heart with the prejudice.
     I love poetry, but Naomi's poems were especially sensitive and emotional. They can be read on several levels, so anyone can find their own truth in her words.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week

     This week I finished up That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week:  Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life by Ana Homayoun.
     Once again the title grabbed my attention and I had to read it because I happen to know lots of disorganized and distacted boys, including my son.  Nick's backpack is always full of crumpled up pieces of paper no matter how many folders or organization ideas we put into place.  Since I am dreading another year of helping him survive school, I was looking for pearls of wisdom.
     The book is very organized and looks at multiple aspects of the problem, along with ways to fix them.  Nick and I talked about several ideas in the book and are putting them into place for the new year. 
     The first idea was cleaning his room and getting rid of all of the things he doesn't use or need anymore.  We moved his desk to a new part of the house where he will be near everyone, but not in the middle of things to get distracted.
     One hard thing to read was parents often sabotage disorganized boys by pushing them to achieve or getting mad at their disorganization.  Guilty, as charged.  I am going to back away and let Nick do it so it isn't a control issue for him.  I let him go to the store and look at the organization systems they had.  He picked out the one that he thinks will work best for him.  Hoping he's right about that!
     The rest of the ideas will go into place next week, starting with the first day of school.  I'll have to let you know how it goes.  I am hopefully optimistic.  If nothing else, at least his room is still clean.  :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Life on the Refrigerator Door

     Okay, I'll admit it...this book had me bawling in the waiting room at the doctor's office yesterday.  Everyone thought I was there for bad news.  After reading the ending, I could honestly tell the doctor I was doing great. 
     The title caught my eye first, but when I saw the pages were notes between a mother and daughter, I had to read it.  Claire is a teenager struggling to define herself in a life of divorce, friends, boys, and school.  Her mom is also struggling as a single mother raising a daughter and working.  They rarely see each other.  Their lives are recorded by notes on the refrigerator.
      The writing is engaging - especially as the word choice and tone change as their lives change.  The characters were so believable, I could see them as I read, even though the author never describes their appearance.
     The best part of the book was being able to relate to the characters.  As a teenager, I found it difficult to communicate with my mom.  Now I have a teenage daughter.  A few years ago we put a white board on the fridge to remind everyone of important messages, shopping lists, etc.  My daughter began to use it as a way to talk to me about things she was feeling or thinking but couldn't say out loud.   Her messages made me laugh, and often made me cry, but kept us connected through the dark days of adolescence.  Alice Kuiper captures that same connection and love between Claire and her mom.  This is a must read book - especially if you have a daughter.