Bite me, Superwoman 2010

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Have you seen Kelly Ripa's commercials for Electrolux? (If not, you clearly aren't watching enough daytime TV).

Here, catch up:

There's so much wrong here I barely know where to start. Where's her husband? This is ostensibly his house and these are ostensibly his kids, as well. And he doesn't have a fraction of the career she does. Shouldn't she have some help? Why is she writing off her (high paid, high pressure) job with a "but I'd rather entertain at home"? And most of all, good GOD, why is it acceptable to show a woman "doing it all" as if that's what we should all aspire to?

And then there's this gem, in which Ripa plays second fiddle to a single friend who is baking cupcakes for all the "hot guys" in her building. Yes, they are "all after her cupcakes." Really? REALLY?

I'm not the first person to be irritated by these throw back commercials. Kenny Darter from Hate On Me writes, "'The problem that has no name' has been identified, and it's called Kelly Ripa." Lemondrop lists the ads as #10 in their list of the most offensive ads to women. At Shakesville, SKM writes:

It would be comforting to think that Ripa's Electrolux ad is sending up the old '50s- early '60s image of the happy housewife made ever more productive by the modern appliances her husband buys. But there's no twist here, no subversion of the stereotype. Unless you count the fact that Ripa is a well-known full-time "career woman" (one of her other Electrolux ads shows her dashing from work to a home full of guests and glazed, passive children). The only new addition to the old 1960 model is that Ripa is both the happy housewife and the breadwinner.

It's that I keep coming back to. Not only is the "these appliances make my housework invisible and even less important!" trope about sixty years out of date (and it was gag-worthy the first time around), but the ads, and Ripa being who she is, make things even worse, implying that not only should a woman keep a perfect house and wait on everyone in it (can't her kids get their own snacks?), but she should also bring home the bacon and buy her own fancy appliances. And, of course, she should do it all smiling, perfectly made-up, and in size 0 designer jeans.

Clearly, commercials don't reflect reality--they'd never sell anything if they did. The ridiculousness of the ads isn't my gripe. My problem is that what is being shown is not the right fantasy. If the boundaries of what is humanly possible could be stretched to allow the perfect superwoman fantasy that Ripa plays in the commercials to exist, couldn't they also be stretched to allow us to do stuff that actually means something? If there were 40 hours in each of my days, as there would have to be in Ripa's for her to honestly host her talk show, play with her kids, have a dinner party, and provide her husband with family friendly nookie, I sure as hell wouldn't spend them doing laundry and making cookies, no matter how nice my appliances were. If we're going to sell women shit by showing them commercials full of superhuman famous people doing the impossible, I want them in capes, fighting crime, saving the innocent, not miraculously multi-tasking in their stylish houses.

When Kelly Ripa played Hayley Vaughan on All My Children, she started out as a punk rock teenager, then worked as a private investigator, was the CEO of a cosmetics company, opened a bar/restaurant and a salsa club with her husband, and became the host of a TV show. She eventually had a couple of kids as well, I think, but I don't remember ever seeing her do laundry. It's a sad state of things when I prefer the soap opera version.

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Win a Birchbox!

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Head over to my review blog and check out my review of the Birchbox, then enter to win your own!

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Boots! Finally!

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We've talked before about how hard it is for me to buy shoes. I have big feet (size 12 or 13), I have plantar faciitis, I'm picky, blah blah blah. I also have long legs and very large calves. This combination makes buying boots, particularly the tall boots I covet so much for this fall/winter, a mammoth task.

But I needed boots. We're going to London for eight days in October. How can I possibly go without a comfortable, stylish pair of boots?

So I started early. I knew I'd have to go through a lot of options. On September 2, I ordered these boots from 6pm.com:

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Lassen Regan, $42.44. Liked the style a lot, but the shaft was too narrow.

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Fitzwell Stir Wide Calf, $99, too big all the way around, looked like galoshes.

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Audrey Trotters Wide Calf, $63.12, too big all the way around again.

On September 6, I tried two more pairs from 6pm:
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Lassen Sylvia, $36.40. These were just fugly. No way.

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Fitzwell Stirrup Wide Calf, $99. I really wanted these to work--I love the look of them. Again, though, with a 17.5 inch calf, they were too big.

On September 9, I made my last 6pm attempt. Since the wide shaft boots I had been trying were too wide, I went to a few non-wide shaft varieties. The Lassen boots I'd tried had been close, so I tried two more of those:

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Lassen Akosua, $46. These fit great, but they looked really clunky on. I wanted something flat and walkable, and these definitely would have been, but I just didn't like how they looked.

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Lassen Stasia, $38. I really really liked these. They looked great. They also wouldn't zip all the way up. Grr.

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Walking Cradles Mix, $106.43. So the wide shaft boots were too wide, and these regular shaft boots were too small. Head, meet wall.

Having exhausted my 6pm.com options, I decided to suck it up and pay a little bit more. My next order was on September 12, from shoes.com:

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Steven by Steve Madden Women's Intyce , $139. Since these were pull on, I thought they might work with my calf issues--they aren't supposed to fit super snugly around the calf, so there is a bit more flexibility. And I was right--they fit great. Unfortunately, they are also built really stupidly with a wedge and a narrow heel--not the best thing for walking around comfortably.

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Franco Sarto Pacaya, $199. I wanted these to work so bad. Last winter, I wore the Franco Sarto Moto boots all winter, and I love love love them. If I could find them in black this year, I wouldn't be going through this search. And these boots are absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, they are gorgeous with a 15" shaft. I could only zip them halfway.

At this point, I looked at the shaft widths of the boots that had been too wide and those that had been too narrow, and came to the conclusion that even though I measure my calf width at 18", boots with a 17.5 or 18" shaft are too wide and those with a 15" or 15.5" shaft are too narrow. Something in the 16.5" range seemed like a good bet, or something with an elastic gusset that allowed some flexibility.

So I made an order from Amazon. I felt a little silly about the price, but the boots were gorgeous, and I was losing patience.

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These are the Blondo Viviane Boot. I ordered them with a 20% coupon, so they ended up costing $160. They have a 16.5" shaft and a gusset all the way up the back. And they fit absolutely perfectly. They're gorgeous, they're comfortable, and they have a great no-slip sole.

I guess 11th time's the charm?

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Living Out Loud 21: The me I used to be

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This month, Genie's Living Out Loud question has a back to school theme. Specifically, she asks:

Tell us about your high school self. In the Breakfast Club version of your school were you the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess or the criminal? Are there people you would love to find from high school? Others you'd love to forget? How do you compare to what you were then? Would your English teacher recognize you? Would he or she be proud of you?

I was a lot of things in high school. A lot of them conflicted. That's still true, but not nearly so much as it was then. I wasn't sure who I was yet, then, and I was trying things on.

Photograph evidence might help, right?

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This picture was taken the summer before my freshman year in high school, so I'm 14. I wasn't a very good softball player. I believe I played second base, maybe? I know I was a much better hitter than fielder. And I only played for a couple of years. My real sport, to the extent I had one, was volleyball, which I played the whole way through. This picture, however, remains my favorite one ever of Jock Grace. I think it's the braids.

In the tiny town in which I grew up, you weren't a shit if you didn't play sports. Seriously. And being my height predicated years of "you're gonna be a great basketball player!" Which I am so, so not, and never was going to be. Volleyball (and a couple of years of softball and throwing javelin and shot) was my compromise position. I didn't love it. I didn't even like it much. But it was part of who I was supposed to be, so I gave it a shot.

This me is one I recognize a little bit better, though I know she's a poseur, too. Dead t-shirt? Really? I have never, ever, listened to the Grateful Dead. The picture was taken at right around the same time as the jock picture, but it's of a different girl. Unlike the jock, though, Grace the Hippy was a girl I wanted to be. I never really was, but I wanted to be.

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And here, a year or so later, we see Grunge Grace. I loved Grunge Grace. Grunge Grace tried really, really hard to like Alice In Chains. She dyed her hair with henna because her mom wouldn't let her use real dye. She watched Singles about sixteen times. She stayed home from school in tears when Kurt Cobain died. And that thrift store flannel she's wearing? She embroidered "Blind Melon" on the back. Hell yeah.

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Theater Grace might be my favorite Grace. In this picture, she's playing Elizabeth Procter in the The Crucible. Theater Grace loved plays. Theater Grace had a great time in plays, and wished so hard that she lived somewhere where she could be in more than one a year, and where rehearsals didn't have to be at 6:30 in the morning as not to conflict with sports practices. Adult Grace wishes she had a little bit of Theater Grace's nerve back.

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It's probably not obvious at a glance what this picture shows, but when I look at it, I see a figure that is called, in my mind, The Grace Next Door (TGND). TGND tried really, really hard to be normal, to like normal things, to be excited about Homecoming and high school boys and whatever the hell else she was supposed to be excited about. She succeeded, sometimes, in convincing everyone around her and even herself. I knew her pretty well, and even I can't tell you, based on this picture, if that smile is real or faked. What I can say is that The Grace Next Door died a quick and painless death my first year in college, and I never missed her.

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Braininess isn't the easiest attribute to photograph, so I decided this picture from my high school graduation will have to suffice to illustrate Grace the Brain. This wasn't so much the end of her braininess as the beginning, in real terms, but it was the last time I remember having a reputation for being smart. Three months after this picture, I was a Reed, a mediocre intelligence in a genius pond. And I was absolutely the better for it, but it was quite the shock.

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This picture was actually taken a few months after my HS graduation--right before I left for college. I'm including it, though, because it's Grace in Transition. I'm beginning to have a clue, here, that I am going to go somewhere and start completely over, with no from-childhood reputation, no passel of family to proceed and follow me, no preconceptions. When I look at this picture, I see a blank slate. And, for the first time in any of these pictures, I see a little bit--just the slightest hint--of who I became.

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What's in the bag?

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Yesterday, Hillary asked for a picture of the contents of her readers' bags. It is her early birthday wish! Who am I to deny a woman a birthday wish?

This is the contents of my bag. It's pretty typical, except that my keys and cell phone are not pictured (because they only go in the bag when I'm headed out).

The bag itself is from Rose City Totes and was purchased at the Saturday Market in Portland. My friend Skye had one at BlogHer and I loved it so much I ran right out to get my own on my next Portland trip. It's the perfect size and shape and zips closed. I'd love a few more, especially since the print I picked, though really cute, isn't terrible in keeping with a lot of my clothes.

The little bag with the stenciled owl on it was a gift from an online friend, and it houses my traveling pharmacy--Epi pen, inhaler, migraine pills, allergy pills, Tylenol, etc.

The pink pouch with the hedgehogs on it is from The Dainty Squid, and I can't recommend it highly enough. So cute, great prices, has held up great (I've been using mine for over two years). It serves as my wallet and currently contains no cash and the following plastic: two debit cards (personal account and joint account); bank-issued Visa; Discover card; $100 Visa gift card I was given as a birthday gift; library card; driver's license complete with terrible picture; Sephora Beauty Insider card; Costco card; very old gift card from Best Buy; insurance card; coupon for a pair of free jeans in-store only at the Gap (who do not carry my size in store); and Unique (my thrift store) frequent shopper card (25% off on Thursdays!).

The tampons are self-explanatory.

The purple and white case houses a pair of oversized tortoiseshell sunglasses from Zenni Optical, where I buy glasses like candy. The case itself is old and I think from Target.

The black square with the rubbed off logo is the compact Sephora gives you when you buy a gift card. I bought a GC as a gift for someone and kept the mirror. I'm a selfish ass like that.

The square with the water aviator girl on it is my business card case, from Uncommon Goods. It was a birthday gift from Mark last year. It holds my professional grant writer business cards and some cards I collected from clients on my last business trip. They don't seem to have this design anymore, but they do still have the other card case I have, this one (which I use for personal cards).

The package of baby wipes are a thrifter's staple--I always have something similar in my bag, since hand washing facilities are not always available. I used to use hand sanitizer, but I really hate the way it smells and feels--baby wipes are gentler, and at least they get the visible scum off my digits. My very favorite things to carry, though, which I have but don't seem to have in my bag right now, are these individually packages wipes from Giovanni. They are expensive as heck when I see them at Target, but I've seen them in T.J. Maxx/Marshall's quite a bit recently and have been stockpiling them.

Next to the baby wipes are the inevitable pile of receipts and coupons that find their way to the bottom of my bag. In this collection I believe there is a Caribou Coffee receipt/coupon, a McDonald's receipt, and a receipt from a Turkish restaurant in Fredericksburg. Above that is the stack of change that meanders to the same place, right now just three quarters.

At the very top is a small black moleksin that contains my thrifting list, a pen, and a tube of Stila Pearl Shimmer Gloss.

Whew! I didn't think I carried much until I started typing it out! And Hillary is right, this is fascinating. I'm definitely going to be peeking in on her other birthday wish granters!

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Some blogs I really really love

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I haven't done this in a while. Here are the blogs I am really grooving on right now. Please leave me a comment with some suggestions for additions to my list!

The Sew Weekly: I already mentioned this blog here, but it's my favorite, so I'm gonna tell you again. Mena has a project. By the end of 2010, she wants her closet to be comprised only of clothes she herself has made. Every week, she sews something and posts about it on her blog. Mostly, it's vintage dresses, often made with thrift sale or antique market fabric and notions. Her style is amazing, her posts are great and informative (she includes how much time it took her to make each outfit and what it cost) and her blog is one of the first I read whenever there is a new post.

No More Sweatpants: Lori declared 2010 the year of no sweatpants, making a resolution to get up and get dressed in real clothes every day (and as a mom of multiple little ones, that's a feat!). She chronicles this effort in her blog. I love her style, which is realistic (she wears the same things more than once!), casual, and cute as hell.

Ruffly Speaking: I've recommended Joanna before as well, but it's been a while. This is the best dog blog I've seen, and one of my favorite blogs to read, period. Plus there are occasional bonus pictures and stories of Joanna's daughters, who are straight out of Little Women, in the best possible way.

Badgermama: HOW HAVE I NOT BEEN READING THIS? I've met Liz Henry, a couple of times actually, at BlogHer. She's one of those people who is so fucking cool you just fall in love with her the first time she opens her mouth. I read her posts on BlogHer. And yet, I only just recently started reading her parenting (and other stuff) blog, Badgermama. And I seriously want to hit my little thumbs up StumbleUpon button after I finish every single post. Go. Read.

Better Than Bullets: This is the newly minted clearinghouse site for writer/mom/action hero Angelina, who I was also blessed to meet at BlogHer this year. The girl is serious about her writing, which I love, and writes about writing in a way isn't so pretentious it makes me choke, which is rare.

There. I've done my bit. Now do yours--what are you reading?

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inkstainedamazons.jpgLook at me go! I finished my second 12 Books, 12 Months book, Jennifer K. Stuller's Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology! The review is over at Heroine Content.

And you should read it. Not in the least because I am quoted. Twice.

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Aquaphor Giveaway!

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Interested in winning some products from Aquaphor? Head over to the review blog!

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Fall style

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Because I have a million things I should be doing instead, I have been thinking about how I'd like be dressed as we move into fall.

Grace's fall look

What do you think?

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The great suit search

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A friend's husband recently referred to me as a "big chick." I suppose I should have been insulted--those words are generally not the way to a woman's heart. But really, I can't argue. I am a big chick. I stand just a hair under six feet tall in my stocking feet. I have wide shoulders, wide hips, a big ass, huge legs. I'm sturdy. Solid. Big. And, as I've mentioned here before (at length, actually), this leads to a world of issues when it comes to buying clothes.

Lately, my problem is suits. I've had several occasions where I needed a suit, and I didn't really have one. I had a few skirts and a few jackets, none of which were a matched set. Those crutched me along for a bit, but really, given my profession, where I'm at now, and where I aspire to be, I needed a suit. At least one, and preferably several.

So I shopped. I started with discount stores (Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Burlington Coat Factory). Moved to the outlet mall. Then department stores (Nordstrom, Macy's). Then more specialized clothing stores (Ann Taylor, Banana Republic). I found one skirt suit, at Ross. In what has to be the most random good luck ever, it fits well. However, it's cheaply constructed, from polyesther fabric, and it's not a long-term suit, it's a novelty suit. I've worn it a couple of times, and I don't hate it, but I don't feel great in it either.

What I really want, I decided is a basic, classic, pants suit. If I had that to fall back on, my motley assortment of professional duds could fill in for the rest, and I could even take my time and wait for other suits to find me. But I need that basic fall-back suit. And every store I could think of had already failed me, mostly in that nobody had pants long enough--if they carry talls in the stores, they don't carry them up to my size (because a 0 Tall is so much more likely than a 16 Tall, apparently). The best course of action, I decided, would be to order a suit from every online retailer I could think of that carried a non-synthetic version in my size, and then compare them all. One would surely work.

I expected to be ordering ten or so. I found five. For the sake of easy comparison, I tried them all on with the same shirt (the slim stretch shirt from J. Crew, also available in tall) and shoes (the Dayna from Circa Joan & David, which used to be available at Nordstrom but isn't anymore).

Suit 1: The Limited
Cassidy Luxe Bootcut Pants in black, $98 (mine were on sale for $39.90)
Lux Narrow Peak Lapel Jacket in black, $198

Total with shipping, tax, and the promo code I found: $203.30

I wanted to love this suit. I liked the idea of being able to wear clothes from The Limited--it seemed hip. And the price was right. But it doesn't work. The pants are too tight at the thigh and the 35" long inseam is not quite long enough for me with heels. The jacket isn't a long, and you can tell that it's not quite long enough on my torso, nor are the sleeves quite as long as I'd like them to be. The rise of the buttons is also a bit low for me. Finally, there is some detailing around the collar that Mark liked, thinking it gave visual interest, but I thought made the suit look cheap.

So this one is going back. However, as a reader FYI, The Limited is now having their semi-annual suit sale, where you get free pants or a skirt if you buy the a jacket. I really love the look of this jacket,, if you have a body a bit more suited to The Limited's styles and sizes.

Suit 2: Eddie Bauer
Blakely Fit Wool Gabardine Trousers in black, $109, $119 for tall
Wool Gabardine Blazer in black, $149, $159 for tall

Total with shipping and tax: $310.00

I was already pissed at Eddie Bauer for charging extra for talls when this arrived. I just think that's chinzy. But the suit didn't help matters any. The pants are strangely big in the crotch, making them bunch up in a really unattractive way. They're also the not-quite-long-enough 35" inseam. The jacket, while long enough, has this ridiculous double-pocket thing that makes it look like a waiter's uniform. Eddie Bauer has other jacket styles, of course, but this the only one they have in wool. So it's going back.

Again, as a reader FYI, Eddie Bauer has a promotion going on now where you get 20% off your entire order if your order includes any pair of pants. The code is FR2PANTS.

Suit 3: Banana Republic
Martin fit black suit pant, $98
Tall lightweight wool black blazer, $198

Total with free shipping and tax: $310.80

This BR suit was definitely the best quality of the ones I tried. It felt the best on, and looked to be the best made. The jacket fit perfectly--just the right length, right button stance, good sleeves. And the pants, with a 36" rather than 35" inseam, were the perfect length. But once again, far too tight in the thighs for me to be really comfortable with.

Going up a size isn't an option here--I'm at the top of the size range for the majority of these retailers, and I also know from experience that going up a size will result in a huge waist gap (which can be tailored, but that's one more step and one more expense). However, something told me there might be other pants options at BR that would work better, so after I tried this suit on I took another look at the website, and found the online only Jackson fit lightweight wool suit pants. Since they're intended for curves, I'm hoping these will give me a better fit than the Martin fit. If they do, I'll keep them and jacket and this will be my new go-to suit.

Suit 4: Talbots
Suit 4: Heritage Fit Seasonless wool-blend boot cut pants in black, $119 regular, $95.21 with coupon code
Seasonless wool-blend jacket in black, $199 regular, $159.19 with coupon code

Total with shipping and tax: $272.37

Talbots isn't somewhere I would have thought of on my own, but somebody suggested them to me as a place with nice suits that come in long lengths. I really liked what I saw on the website, so I thought I'd give it a try. The pants aren't lined. Really? Suit pants that aren't lined? Scratchy wool? Um, no. Plus they're too tight in the thighs (sensing a theme?). Plus they're 35" inseam and thus too short for heels. Fail all the way around. And the jacket is, if anything, worse. I loved it on the model, but even though it's supposed to be a tall, it hit me 3 or 4 inches higher than it does her, making it look cropped and boxy. No thanks. These are both going back.

Suit 5: Ann Taylor
Tall Tropical Wool Modern Lined Trouser in black, $128 regular, $108 on sale
Tall Tropical Wool 2-Button Jacket in black, $198

Total with tax and shipping and a coupon code: $240.98

Once again, this one got close. I like the jacket--Mark found it too conservative, but that's what I was going for. It's a nice classic shape and it's long enough, with buttons in the right place and sleeves that actually fit. The trousers are long enough, too--36" inseam--but the thighs once again are too tight. However, I did the same thing at Ann Taylor I did at Banana Republic and went back to the website, where I found a curvy fit style. Since the curvy ones were only available in my size in gray, I ordered those and another jacket, the same style, in gray. If they work out, I'll keep them.

All in all, this exercise wasn't a complete failure--three suits were totally out of the question, but two were possibilities, with modifications. If either (or better yet, both!) the Banana Republic or the Ann Taylor pants in the curvier fit work for me, I'll have a suit! And then I can quite happily go back to hoping I'll never have to wear it.

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12 Books, 12 Months Book 1: Norwegian Wood

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norwegian-wood.jpgLook at me, getting ahead early on! On my red-eye flight last night, I finished my first "12 Books, 12 Months" book, Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood. The book is a pretty straightforward novel, a story about a college student in Japan in the late 1960s/early 1970s and the two women he falls in love with. It reminded me, at times, in a ways that seemed very self-conscious, of Catcher in the Rye. I'm told Murakami's other books have a strong supernatural element, but this one doesn't--it's about self-knowledge and growing up and all that good stuff.

I didn't dislike the book, but I didn't find it particularly compelling, either. My sympathy for the narrator, Watanabe, was fairly limited, and neither of the women--Naoko and Midori--resonated with me particularly strongly either. The characters all struck me as a little bit overwritten in their oddness.

I suspect the major problem with this book, for me, was that I've read a lot of book that were inspired by it. Published in the 80s, Norwegian Wood may have been insightful or really ground-breaking when it came out (though, given my persistent imagining of Watanabe as a Japanese Holden Caulfield, maybe not), but having read a lot of similar books, it struck me as a little bit trite.

For my next "12 Books, 12 Months" book, I'm headed back into non-fiction.

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Very belated goals check-in #5

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Remember how I had those goals for 2010? And the last time I checked in on them was in May?

Yeah. I got distracted.

So, since today is the first of the month, I'm getting back on track. Goal check-in time.

1. Take at least one overseas trip.
There are actual plans in the works! Looks like we're going to London in mid-October!

2. Read 30 books.
I'm on my way! I currently have 16 read and more in progress--the 12 Books, 12 Months club should help with this!

3. Get to a healthy size.
I did so well with this one until I started working so much. In the past few months, I've really fallen off and the weight has started to creep back up. Gotta focus here.

4. Save $500/month.
Mixed progress here. I've been saving $500/month, but I've had to raid the savings a couple of times when I've stretched myself too thin, and I am going down to 30 hrs/week at my day job, so this goal may not be possible for the rest of the year. Of course, if the freelance work continues to move at the quick pace it's been going, it will be. We shall see where I end up at the end of the year. My current balance is only $2,000 more than my January 1 balance was, so I'm not exactly on-track.

5. Give 5%.
Still on-track overall here.

6. Start retirement savings.
Still haven't made a 2010 addition to the account yet. I keep watching it go down and wondering why I should bother. But I will, before the end of the year.

7. Join something.
Still no. I've looked around a bit, but nothing has seemed worth the time and energy investment yet.

8. Write a novel.
Not sure at this point that I'm still committed to this goal. There are just too many other things I'd rather write.

9. Create something.
I ought to know better than to make goals this vague...

10. Remember birthdays and send cards.
Massive fail here. I've been negligent about even my immediate family's special days in the past few months. I have GOT to get my shit together on this one.

Not exactly an uplifting report. Guess that's what I happens when I fail to monitor my progress. Hopefully I'll be more positive next month.

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