Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review- The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

He's at is again folks.  That crazy Robert Landon is getting himself in all sorts of high jinx, this time in our nation's capitol of Washington, DC.  My bookclub chose to read "the Lost Symbol" for a quick easy December read, and it was.  On Friday I went to buy the book (hoping for a black Friday discount....since the library never sent me my copy of the book).  On Saturday, I returned the book I purchased "Decoding the Lost Symbol" and picked up the correct book.  That means I had 509 pages to read before wednesday.  fear not....I had it read last night. 
You know the way those Dan Brown books work.  you just can't put them down.  So I spent most of Saturday night, sipping on some pomagranate 7-up (best thing there is in November/December, if you haven't tried it pick some up today), tuning out the replay of the streaming Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel and reading my book.
Now, as I have said before, I am a very fast reader.  In all reality, in a book like the Lost Symbol, you dont' need to take notes.  Dan Brown's books are always well written, easy to get through without too much thought.  this was no exception.
It starts with our hero getting an urgent call to do a lecture from a dear friend, who is a Mason (of course, cuz there has to be some sort of secret society or it just wouldnt be interesting).  Of course, the invite is really just a silly pry to get him to DC to help the villian solve a mystery using symbolism...same old story, different location, different villian.
I realize this may sound like I didnt like the book.  Au Contraire, mon frere.  I really did enjoy it (hence reading 509 pages in less than 48 hours.).  The difference with this book was this....I figured it out.  about page 150, I knew the killer's secret.  I'm not sure it's because I have read too many of his books and know how it "works", but it was still pretty crazy.  Don't worry, I wont ruin it for you.

Interesting Dan Brown required faith based reference note: In this book, one of the main charactors is a scientist of a new breed, called Noetic Science. This is the study of conciousness, the mind and the power of it.  according to the Institue of Noetic Science website, the definition is "potentials and powers of consciousness—including perceptions, beliefs, attention, intention, and intuition".  Talking, of course, about how different ages of people have translated things differently.  I love the way Dan Brown talks about religion, about how the Bible and other religious texts have been translated over and over again and oftern times in thier translations, completely changing the meaning of key points.  One of the key challenges in this book is the concept of God making people in his image.  The question is, if he made us in his image, wouldn't that be powerful.  One of my favorite parts of the book discussed something I blogged about recently "Reading this may make you Angry" talking about the founding fathers and seperation of church and state. 

For a great, quick read, I would recommend Dan Brown's, "The Lost Symbol".  And, if you want, you can borrow my copy....I dont need any more books:)

Side Note: If any one can tell me where my spell check went on my Blog I would greatly appreciate it, as I do not know how to spell.
Thank you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Every year I try to come up with something I am thankful for that starts with every letter of Thanksgiving.  This year has been wonderful!  I still have the most amazing, wonderful boyfriend a woman could ask for.  We have become so much closer in the last few months and I really have found my soul mate.  My family and friends are (mostly) healthy, I have tried better to stay in touch with people.  Scott and I both still have our jobs (something to really be thankful for this year).  So, before I just say everything I am thankful for, here is my Thanksgiving list.

Traveling.  Thanks to all of those who have housed us this year, and for those who took time out during thier travels to spend time with us.
Health, happiness, and home
Aruba- the countdown has begun.  36 days to go and I will be laying on a beach, drinking my mango margarita.
Nights at home on the couch.  Living such busy lives, its nice to turn the phones off (or at least on vibrate), cuddle on the couch, watch a movie and eat pizza rolls (popcorn is soooo overrated)
Kites- Scott and I bought kites in March and went to an empty field to fly them.  It was fun to act like a kid again and just feel like a bird in flight...(with your fist holding the string of your kite)
Scott- He completes me, enlightens me, and engages me everyday.  Without him, life wouldnt be nearly as fun!
Graduation- Whoohoo!  I am finally done with School (until I decide to go get my PhD.
Invites and being apart of some of my best friends most special days!  Em and Marc, Keri and Dan, Dobbs and Amy, your weddings were all wonderful.  Thank you for sharing your special day with me.  It means alot! 
Volunteering and volunteers.  I have had such a great time on the volunteer projects I have been a part of this year, and I know Scott truly appreciates all the volunteers he gets at the pantry weekly.  It's such an easy way to give back to your community and makes you feel part of something bigger.  Find something you are interested in, learn more about it, and find ways to volunteer that fit your personality.
Improvement- every year, life gets a little better, friends get a little closer and I learn more and more about who I am. 
Not having to run the marathon this year- is that bad to say....I love running it...I did not love training for it.
Great friends and family.  I have the best, both far and near.  I miss those of you who are far away, but know you will be in my thoughts on Thanksgiving day.

Everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Enjoy your families, and be thankful for the gifts you have been given!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Report- Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides

So...who hasnt read this book?  I am pretty sure the whole word had read it, owns it, and has raved about it.  Again, I'm a little slow on the uptake.  I have been wanting to read this book for years, but it was always one of the books I forgot I wanted to read, and then I would get stuck on something else.  But I actually ordered it via our lovely liberary system, and it came and I read it.  and I loved it. 

The story is told from our protagonist (see how I did that, she is greek, her family is greek, so I used a big greek word...yeah, i am that awesome) Calliope (later called Cal), but what is really interesting is that so much of the book takes place before Cal is born.  It starts with her grandparents who are born in Smyrna, a place in between Greece and Turkey, that basically lived in consitant confict over whether they were Greek or Turk.  Through some crazy events, and what most 21st centrury Americans would deem as disgusting, Cal's grandparents were brother and sister, and got married.  As they were on the ship over to America, they staged the whole thing, inventing two people who were falling in love after meeting on the ship for the first time, and I really think even they began to belive it.  (you know those Greeks and thier great acting abilities.).

Her grandparents end up in Detriot in the early 20th century.  The grandfather begins working in a car factory (cuz it's detriot) until the depression hits.  Then he gets involved with a rum runner business with his cousin's husband (they live with his cousin and her husband- who is kinda a d-bag.).  Most people who know me, know that I LOVE the whole speak-easy, rum-runner, mobster, events.  I really think prohibition was one of the worst decisions made by the federal government, in that it just glamorized drinking more than anything else.  And, now that drinking is legal, the government can tax the CRAP out of alcohol, call it a sin tax and people still buy it.   They control what is in it, there is no more "moonshine" that can kill you with a sip, and did I mention, tax the crap out of it?  So, you know me...I definatly found this part very interesting.

So Cal's grandparents have a couple kids, and Cal's cousin and her husband have a kid.  Still in Detriot, though Detriot is becoming more and more like the Detriot I know, and less like the thriving metropolis they knew.  The Grandfather opens a restruant, called the Zebra room.  And ultimately the grandparents son, and the cousins daughter get married.  The produce two children (chapter 11- who is never referred to anything but this...I can only assume it's due to his ultimate business failure) and Calliope.  Calliope is named female, but due to a somewhat senile doctor, is really mis-diagnosed.  We later learn that she has 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (5-ARD)- which basically means she is intersexed.  She is raised as a girl, and this doesnt come to knowldge until she is in her teens ( much we owe you).

When Calliope does learn of her condition, her parents have made the decision that she should be a girl...Cal knows that she really should be a boy, and runs off (this is due mainly to her lovely Dr .who gives parents half information, but we can't blame him completely becuase Cal was not completely honest with him during all of her evaluation).  She runs to San Fransisco, which was the mecca for sexual revalution in the 70's. 

Cal continues life as a man, but struggles with relationships and intimacy.  He seems to have found a girl at the end of the book who will be accepting of who he is and what he was.

The book was great.  Mr. Eugenides does a wonderful job of taking us through three generations of people, never passing judgement and allowing us, the reader, to become more open-minded as we read.  I highly recommend you pick it up.  If you have read it, read it again.  you never know if you might have missed something.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christmas in Chicago...already...its not even Thanksgiving

Yesterday, Scott and I went downtown for the Mag Mile Lights Festival.  We haven't been downtown for "fun" in quite a while, esp. not on the Michigan (see, in my old age I've gotten a little claustraphobic, and get a bit freaked out when I am places with a LOT of people if I can't figure a way to get out.  We took the train down and walked a bit on some of the side streets (not on Michigan- we walked down Rush and State and just window shopped, looked around.  It was a beautiful day, about 50 degrees...that is, until the sun went down.  We really went down because I didnt get to see fireworks all year this year (Im a sucker for fireworks) and they were going to shoot them off at Michigan and the river at 6 (or so I thought).  turns out...they went off around 7. 
After the fireworks (we found a great spot on the riverwalk) we wanted to go grab a bite to eat and make a night out of it....

We first tried to go to "Rock Bottom", two hour wait...then to one of our favorites downtown (Quartino's), 2 hour wait, we went to no less than 4 places, all with a 1:45-2 hour wait, crazy, so we just got on the train and headed back home.  We went to a bar/grill next to our house that we haven't been to yet.  It was good....and we saved some $, but it just wasn't the same.  I guess while we were waiting for 2 hours for the fireworks, we should have made some reservations....who knew.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Project Runway Finale- Subtitled: I love me some Carol Hannah

Ok- I am an avid watcher of Project Runway. I think its amazing how talented some of these people are with little or no training, I aspire to be them. I have been known to sketch my own designs as I watch the show, pretending that I can be them. It is one of my life's goals to take a class and actually learn how to make patterns, I want to get a body double who I can get to try my clothes on for me. I would love to make my own wedding dress, if I ever need one, you get the picture.

Over the years, I have always had my favorites. This year, my favorite from the very beginning was Carol Hannah. She was sweet, southern, and made super cute dresses. I understand she did make a lot of dresses and perhaps that makes her not the most "well-rounded" fashion designer...but really world, really....PR Judges kicked her off stage FIRST! That's just silly.

Here are my reasons:

1. Nina Garcia basically came in and told EVERYONE not to make their outfits all in one what did Irena do...made them all in black.

2. Althea and Irena basically are the same designer. I don't think it's copying...I think it's just that they have the same taste. Fine for some, not for me. I want someone different.

3. I looked on Irena's website for her 2010 collection...there is NOTHING I would want to buy on there...NOTHING. When I looked at carol Hannah's, there are sooo many cute dresses (and by soo many I mean, 12) but you get the picture. She also has these cute wedding dresses ( and is really starting to make a name for herself.

I think that just goes to show you how sometimes the best man, er, girl, doesn't win. She is going to be just fine...and perhaps its better for me if she didn't win as her price tag may remain only "slightly" above my price range...

This weekend I plan to get out my sewing machine and "make it work" in my own way. We will see what I come up with.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WARNING! Reading this may make you angry...

I have been debating writing this blog for a long time. It's controversial, it's going to make some people cheer and some people very angry. however, I think it needs to be said, I don't think its said enough and I think in this day and age it is fairly appropriate to re-examine our core values.

several hundred years ago people fled to this country seeking religious freedom...the ability to practice their religion, to not have religion and religious beliefs influence laws of the land, people's individual rights or being imposed on others.

In order to ensure their new land would not fall pray to the same old, same old, the authors of our constitution ensured this was stated in the bill of rights...actually it was the very first one they added.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

Now, I get the point of this was to not create a "national religion" and also to not become so many of the countries that we see that do not even allow any sort of religious worship. However, I wonder if that is where our fathers wanted that to be the end all, be all of our religion...after all, lawyers hadn't quite yet become the skilled writers they are today, I don't think "CYA" had become a forethought for anything that was ever written. There are no asterisk that helped quantify what words meant.

I cant help but wonder if our forefathers would like the fact that religion is often the reason people cite for not allowing people their individual human rights of marriage, adoption, children, family, and love. I wonder they would be happy that mosques get burned down in protest, or how some people's core religious beliefs are "illegal".

I would just like to really impose upon the lawmakers of the US to keep religion out of congress and senate. We are a melting pot of religions, some people's religious views are conservative, some don't have any at all. Therefore, in order to best serve the public and the people as you are elected to do, keep it real, think about those same people you are supposed to be representing and what they need, want, desire- outside of religious contexts. (What I would really like to impose on law makers is a challenge to just pass laws that are good the the population and to stop worrying about the next election...but that is a whole different blog...and probably not quite as controversial:))

The God I believe in loves all of his children, red, yellow, black or white, gay straight, bi-sexual, Muslim, Christian, Jewish...he would want all of them to be happy, to lead their lives as examples to the rest of us and to be forgiving and inclusive.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Omage to a great invention...

Sung to : Red, Red, Wine by UB40.

Box of Wiiiiinnnnee..

Best invention EHEHVER
You let me have a glass,
and not open a bottle

BOX of Wiiinnnneee....
You are so cost effective
and last forever...
if you didnt get drank

My swee box of wine.

Long ago, you were shunned
everyone said you weren't quality
but now I, can get good brands
and dont drink all my expensive bottles

OH Box of Wiiinneee.
I like you in red
thats good cuz you dont take up fridge space
you sit on your shelf
awaiting my glass

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Full of "Glee"

Allright, I'll admit it. I'm a Gleek. I love the show...I love that they get to do AWESOME songs that totally beat the crap we had to do in High School (yes, I was a show choir) and we didnt get to sing "Push It". now, I will admit...that for some reason whenever "Get on Your Feet" by Gloria Estephan comes on the radio, I still do the dance....the whole dance...its a little freaky. I mean, who knows a whole choriographed dance from ...12...years ago...

And also....I do love me some power have to love the required step out whenever there is a chord change, or a slow walk across the stage as the bridge commences.

I was very sad the last two week that stupid baseball took over my Wednesday night Glee...I do wish they would actually sing and not fake it on the show. You can tell they are, mostley because most of them are very accomplished broadway singers.

For those of you who have not seen the show, let me inform you of some of my favorite moments:
1. When showchoir director is trying to get more boys, so he recruits the football team...funny, because thats what Reed tried to do as well...she was just not as successful.

2. Also in the football episode, when the players did the Single Ladies dance:)

3. kristin chenoweth- need I say more.

4. The two men fighting over the same my life, it was the guy who was doing the cheating...but still

So, now that I am reminsing....I have gone ahead and posted some very funny, and enlightening pictures.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blaming Cookie Monster

So, Scott and I were sitting on the couch today and he tells me that people are blaming cookie monster on childhood puppet (Muppet) is causing children to eat processed, greasy, food and not go outside and play on a regular basis. Interesting. It's just one on the long line of incorrect placement of blame that goes on today. First, McDonald's get sued...for serving hot coffee...then, I hear all this stuff about the Baby Einstein video's and how people are SHOCKED that sitting their kids in front of a television for hours on end, doesn't make them a genius, and now this. How about we try this from now on America.

Take some darn responsibility for your own actions. As a Manager, I am the first to own up when I make a mistake. I always provide a solution, and offer an apology. I tell me team to make mistakes, take a chance...its the way you learn. But when you cross the line, or when you make a bad decision, you have to own up to it. I am by no means perfect, but I'd like to think I am good at being responsible for my actions.

If we are going to start placing blame on Sesame Street for childhood obesity, perhaps we should blame the parents who allow hours upon hours of sitting in front of the television, or playing Wii as a part of exercise. Perhaps we should blame the hot pockets, frozen pizzas, or lack of vegetables and fruit in school cafeterias.

Or maybe, I will just start changing my tactics. When I send an email to the wrong person...Ill blame outlook. When a project implementation doesn't hit our execution date, I'll blame the clocks...spring forward made me lose an hour. When I'm late for work, Ill blame it on the bed for being so comfortable, or my alarm for somehow shutting off when I meant to hit snooze.

You gotta blame it on something....You gotta blame it on something....Blame it on the Rain, yeah, yeah!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Aruba, Jamaica...ooohh he's gonna take me...

For those of you who have been living under a rock and havent seen me lately, I have great news!!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I got home from work and Scott was at class, and there was a file folder on our coffee table with a note on top that said something to the effects of "Melissa, I love you, I know you have been stressed about several things, and now winter is coming so you are going to be sad about the weather too, so I wanted to give you something to look forward to. I open up the file folder and there is a picture of Aruba...along with plane tickets and hotel reservations for January 6-10, 2010.

Why Aruba---

Let me take you back to July 2007....

Scott and I had been dating almost a year and were getting ready to go on our first "vacation" camping with a bunch of Scott's friends. We were out on Scott parents boat (so it was 2007, cuz gas wasnt $500/gallon (2008), and it was actually warm enough to go out on the water (not so for 2009). As Scott's dad was trolling us around on the dinghy, we were talking about camping and Scott's dad so nicely said to Scott something to the effect of, "Scott, why dont you spend some of your money and take this girl somewhere Aruba". From that moment on, all we have heard about from his parents is when are we going to Aruba? We go to his house and I swear his parents must DVR all the Aruba travel shows and play them, so they can say, wow, Scott, look how beautiful Aruba is.

Now, for those of you who dont know me....I love the islands. I love being warm, sunbathing like a turtle, reading my book listening to the waves crash, swimming in the ocean, feeling the warm sand exfoliate my is all amazing. I haven't been to a beach (a real beach, not North Ave. beach) in quite some time...several years actually. My afinity for beaches came to a peak my semester in the DR. Carribbean beaches are not your Florida beaches. The spotless white sand, the "island time" culture, the warm golden sun...yeah!!

So, we leave in 2 months. I can't wait. With all the holidays and maddness, rushing around for the next several weeks, it will definately be a vacation needed.

and, don't worry...I already know...My boyfriend is THE BEST!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Review: The Red Tent

I've always been a reader. I was the girl who looked "forward" to getting sent to my room, as I knew I could just sit up there and read and allow my books to take me to places unknown (now when I was a child, that place was usually Stoneybrook, CT, as i was a little addicted to this little chain of books known as "The Babysitters Club". I always hoped to be half as cool as Stacy.

In college, pleasure reading became a long lost and foregotten pasttime. There was no more reading things other than Plato, Arestotle, and some really interesting communication books.

once I got myself settled in Chicago, I had a wonderful best friend who lived a short ways away frm me and we would trade books...she also hearts books. It was great to always have someone to bounce book ideas off, sounding board for deeper meanings of books, or just talking about the good laugh reads. Well...she moved (silly husbands), but luckily for me, I ended up finding some lovely ladies who wanted to join a book we created one.

For the month of October, we read "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant.

"The Red Tent" is the story of Dinah, a mid-wife from Old Testimant times, who was the daughter of Leah and Jacob...and more famously, the sister of Joseph-and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat. In the bible, she is mearly a footnote, a sister who left her family to go be a mid-wife, was raped, and then left her family after they raised havek on the city to "clear her name". That's history, written from one point of view, handed down from generation to generation. This story is told from Dinah's side, a strong, smart, considerate girl who grows up to be a stronger woman.

My Thoughts:
I loved this book, couldn't put it down, read a 300 page book in 4 days. Ms. Diamant does an excellent job of explaining the geography, the brothers, the wives of Jacob. She tells the story in a way that makes you not want to put the book down. The charactors are real. The Red Tent, was a menstral tent, where the women of the house would go during thier "visit from Aunt Flo", sit around like chickens and gossip, for 3 days. There was a funny story in there about how the men think this is a huge curse and painful, and the women just let them think that. The women of the book are strong, self-suffeciant women. As much as the world has handed down the notion of women as submissive, this book pointed out how self sufficiant they were, even when it was not "kosher". Jacob's wives were consulted regarding moving, eating, and most other life decisions.

Dinah left home to be a mid-wife, as she learned her trade from one of her "mother's", Rachael (Joseph's mother....she was Jacob's favorite wife). When she was practicing her mid-wifery, she met a boy (a prince) with whom she fell in love. The consumated, and therefore thought of themselves as "married" and lived as such. The prince went to Jacob to pay his bridal fee, and Jacob's brilliant sons decided that money wasnt enough. The prince needed to be circumsized. The silly prince actually agreed, and him, his father and the whole CITY were adults...YIKES! Well, the brothers thought this still wasnt enough, so they go to the town, ransack it and murder every man in the town. The take Dinah home, but she leaves and goes back to the city and is taken in by her "mother-in-law".

Life goes on, Dinah is known throughout the lands as a great mid-wife, makes some friends and travels alot.

My favorite parts of this book were the strong female relationships. Dinah's mothers all taught her something, all believed in her, all hoped for her. They had thier fights, their disagreements, but they were still a family, still a part of each other. Also, everyone seemed to "Human". Not like the bible, where everyone is depicted as these great oracles, men of knowledge, who didnt drink, didnt have/enjoy sexual experiences, didnt feel jealous. In this book, Jacobs wives get envious of each other, they can hear Jacob on his wedding nights with his wives and on the nights he chooses to spend with them. There is laughter, lust, longing. There are bratty brothers and homemade beer. I could relate to every situation, every thought.

The end, I thought, was a bit predictable. but my bookclub said they didnt see it coming, so maybe it was just me. But I highly recommend this book. Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame

Two weeks ago, I got to go to the "most beautiful place my eyes have ever seen"....South Bend, IN...Notre Dame Football Game! I have been an ND fan since college, when I refused to be a Nebraska fan, due to their arrogance, fair-weatheredness, and the fact that you couldn't go ANYWHERE on a Saturday without the Husker game being on the radio...I mean, no place was safe...the Mall, Panara, Movie was CRAZY. So I decided to become a ND fan...they also had Brady Quinn as the QB at that time...yum it wasnt difficult to cheer.

Well...the problem is that I started dating this guy, Scott, who went to Boston College...he despises ND football and we have always fought during the ND/BC game. This year, Scott's awesome friends George and Ann, had an extra pair of tickets and two extra seats in the car for us to we woke up early on Saturday, October 24th, and ventured to South Bend. IT WAS CRAZY!!!! We seriously got out of the car, walked 10 minutes and ran into our friend Billy...who we didn't even know was coming! We were meeting some other friends who had been in SB since Thursday who had an awesome tailgate...full of chili and sandwiches. I found the greatest tailgate drink at the store...margarita's in a box! so, the girls and I carried around the margarita boxes and had ourselves great time in the rain.

We also ran into a girlfriend of mine who was in a wedding with me (AKA- Best Maid of Honor Ever), who was also a BC alum. It was great to see soo many Chicago people in South Bend.

Luckily the rain cleared right before the game started, and though it was a nice crisp day, it was PERFECT for football. I will admit that a football game that is taped for NBC takes FOREVER!!!! but ND was victorious.

I cant wait to go back to look at the beautiful campus, see TD Jesus (we didnt get to see it:() , and watch ND kick some more a$$.