Category Archives: Life Lessons

45 Things I Learned From the Gilmore girls

I just finished re-watching my all time favorite television show, Gilmore girls. If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not know that Netflix added it to their library of television series. It took me about a month to watch all 7 series, take from that what you will. I kept a list of lessons I learned as I was watching. Enjoy as you let the wisdom wash over you because Gilmore girls is more than just a TV show, it’s a lifestyle.

  1. You can’t always help who you love.
  2. All bad girls wear red nail polish.
  3. Childbirth is like doing the splits on a case of dynamite.
  4. There’s no such thing as too much coffee
  5. Bagels are like glue in your intestines. Ew.
  6. Candy bars are chocolate covered death with a caramel surprise.
  7. “Oi” is one of the funniest words in the world. Oi with the poodles already.
  8. Wallowing is an important first step after a breakup.
  9. Brazzelfrat and snicklefritz are seriously underused words.
  10. The plural of “cul-de-sac” is “culs-de-sac.”
  11. Snow is magical.
  12. Every relationship is just a big honking leap of faith.
  13. Being attracted to pie doesn’t mean you should date pie.
  14. Ethics are highly subjective and completely overrated.
  15. A banana eating contest isn’t always about eating a banana.
  16.  It’s much better to have a haunted leg than a cold.
  17. If you’re frustrated with someone, just push them in a lake.
  18. Once your heart is involved, it all comes out in moron.
  19. Rich people have hilarious sock drawers.
  20. Mondays are bad, but they come around eventually.
  21. Ladies don’t even look at puddles.
  22. All anyone wants is to find a nice person to hang out with ’til we drop dead. It’s not too much to ask!
  23. Smart girls are mean.
  24. Always make friends with the girls who have the emergency pop-tarts.
  25. Answer the pepperoni.
  26. You can’t watch “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” without massive amounts of candy.
  27. Cooper Boom is a phrase used to speed people up.
  28. Ladies don’t do anything for themselves.
  29. Kids always have jam on their hands, even if there isn’t any jam in the house.
  30. It’s good to have choices when deciding what to do with your life.
  31. Booze is grown-up milk and cookies.
  32. Almost anything can be “dirty.”
  33. Always carry a book.
  34. It’s impossible to not become your mother.
  35. Important decisions should be made with pro/con lists.
  36. Stay away from windows when drinking.
  37. The difference between cows and humans is hay.
  38. Fries are the devil’s starchy fingers.
  39. A “kropog” is a unit of distance not volume.
  40. All grown-up women own a Hello Kitty waffle iron.
  41. Waffle is a good modeling name if you’re from Belguim.
  42. College is good for the skin.
  43. When you’re dating someone, never dress weather appropriate.
  44. If you think your eye is swelling, maybe your face is shrinking.
  45. Mexican food makes good hangover food.

-XOXO-

What are your favorite Gilmore girl lessons?

30 Day Self Improvement Challenge

Swapping your closet can be exhausting, but going from summer to fall is one of the best times of the year. You get to do away with your flimsy, sticky tube tops that offer no support or protection and snuggle into cozy sweaters and things that make you feel warm and safe. And as an added bonus you never know what you’ll find from last year: a 20, your favorite lip gloss, an unopened lollipop, or a list of goals you made last fall.

My plan with this list was to discover characteristics within myself that I wanted to improve, work on these individually for 30 days (according to science, it takes 30 consecutive days to form a habit) each and discover an improved version of myself in about months. The reality was that I lost the list in my move to Portland and forgot all about my self-improvement goals. But it’s never too late to start again so now I’m sharing my list with you.

 “Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” ~Buddhist Proverb
We all complain. Even if you argue that you are the happiest person in the world, you still complain sometimes. Sometimes we complain without even realizing it, but rarely is it ever helpful. Instead of complaining I will…
  • change the way I think about situations by seeing the positive instead of the negative.
  • practice yoga in order to become more mindful.
  • train myself to be less judgmental.
  • keep a list of things I am grateful for.
  • avoid fueling other people who are on the complain train by changing the subject or asking them to stop.
  • accept the situation or change the situation.
  • do more of what makes me happy and fulfilled and less of what makes me complain.
  • take care of myself so I am better equipped to handle difficult situations.

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
~ Henry James

Kindness is one of the simplest thing to give to another person, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and forget about it. Or maybe we don’t know how to be kind:

  • Express gratitude to the people around you for things they do.
  • Replace judgement with understanding.
  • Replace un-constructive criticism with encouragement and constructive criticism.
  • Just be there for someone – listen, hug, sit with them.
  • Offer to help someone practically with a household chore, when they’re moving, or when they’re carrying something heavy.
  • Remember the little things: little notes, letting someone merge into your lane while driving, holding the door for someone, helping someone with directions if they seem lost, a surprise gift.
  • Be kinder towards yourself.

 “No one has ever become poor by giving.” 
~ Anne Frank
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day life but it’s important to remember the less fortunate. I cannot volunteer every day for 21 days but my goal is to volunteer with an organization I feel passionate about once a week and for the remaining days be mindful of the important people in my life and think about how I can be there for them.

 “Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”
~ Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon: you have a deadline but instead are squandering your precious time on social media and cat videos. Break the cycle and get s**t done:
  • Organize your tasks into smaller steps that are more easily managed.
  • Change your environment to be more productive.
  • Create a detailed timeline with deadlines for each task to be completed by.
  • Eliminate the temptation of your favorite procrastination.
  • Surround yourself with inspiring people who take action.
  • Inform others of your goals, they are bound to ask about your progress when they see you.
  • Get advice from those who have already achieved their goals.
  • Revisit your goals to be sure they are still what you want.
  • Don’t make it complicated, there is no perfect time to do something.
  • Just do it – strategizing, planning and hypothesizing should not become your newest form of procrastination.
“Acceptance is such an important commodity, some have called it the first law of personal growth.”
~ Peter McWilliams

In dealing with situation and other people’s actions, we have 3 options: cut them out of our life, be frustrated or accept and embrace it. The only empowering option is acceptance. Why?

  • Life is too short for frustration.
  • You are forced to find the good. 
  • It creates realistic expectations for the future.
  • You likely do things that are just as frustrating.
  • It strengthens your relationships.
“As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.”
~ Robin S. Sharma

Your comfort zone may make you feel snug and safe but the boundaries leave little room for personal growth. Over time this once protective blanket may feel more like a straight jacket trapping you with boredom and fear. Stretch your zone a little and invite a little excitement and adventure in.

  • Make a fool out of yourself without fear of what others think.
  • Try something new, the worst that can happen is you fail.
  • Take a minute to discover some of the subtle fears that plague you every day and face them.
  • Become comfortable taking risks (not to be confused with being reckless). Your comfort zone is predictable to stretch it you have to do the unexpected.
  • Find comfort in the unknown.

-XOXO-

What’s on your list?

10 realizations that have changed the way I look at life

They say the key to being a writer is figuring out who you are, finding your voice. I’ve come to a kind of epiphany about life: you never can find yourself because you’re changing all the time. Every minute, every day, every experience is shaping your reality and your person. Finding your writing voice is the same, each piece you write allows you to grow. At least that’s what I see in my blogging experiment.

I like to think I have a unique voice, that I am funny and charming in my blog posts. I hope my readers perceive me that way. That’s why I’m so excited and nervous about participating in NaBloPoMo this month. In order to post something every day I need to write something every day. In order to write something every day, I need to have interesting things to write about. In order to have interesting things to write about I need to be interesting and I worry that I am not interesting. But this vulnerability is what makes NaBloPoMo simultaneously thrilling and crippling.

So I decided to examine my life, what have I learned in my 24 years that might be of interest and might be mistaken for life lessons?

  1. Accept responsibility – it has taken me 24 years to really appreciate what it means to make a mistake AND accept that I did something wrong, but I finally discovered that by taking responsibility for my actions, I learn more about how to act in the future.
  2. Look at things from another perspective – I have been known to be impatient, my schedule and my wants and needs often were the only things on my radar. By taking a step back and seeing the situation from another point of view I can let go of less important wants while making my needs known.
  3. Listen – it turns out that listening is not just waiting for the other person to stop talking so I can say what I’ve been thinking about the whole time they’ve been speaking. Listening is a learned skill in which you don’t just hear what is being said, you also comprehend and process it.
  4. Question everything – gullibility is possibly one of my more endearing traits but it is blind acceptance of information. Ignorance is not bliss: always check facts and research topics before believing them.
  5. Every moment is an opportunity – carpe diem (or YOLO if you’re a stupid person) is a great motto. Don’t let opportunities pass you by, because although life is the longest thing you’ll ever experience, it goes by fast.
  6. You are in control – my parents have always given me excellent guidance but at a certain point you can’t live your life based on someone else’s idea of what your life should be. Surround yourself with people who will guide and advise you but give yourself permission to make the final decision.
  7. Forgive and let go – Probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned: the only person I can control is myself. When someone slights me, whether it’s big or small, I forgive them and forget. Don’t let someone live rent free in your head.
  8. Don’t define your limits – You (like the limit of f(x) = |x|/x as x approaches 0) are limitless (the limit doesn’t exist, is calculus humor still relevant?) You can never stop growing in your career, in your spirituality, in your sexuality, in your relationships, in yourself.
  9. Practice make perfect – a horrible cliche, I know, but it’s true, you cannot become a master without trying something over and over again. Period.
  10. Be thankful – there will always be people who have more than you and there will always be people who have less than you. Focus on what you have and give thanks.

-xoxo-

What observations have you made about life that help you day to day?

I’m Back! (and hopefully for good this time)

Every website I’ve ever read about blogging says to never tell your readers that you took a break from writing because they either didn’t notice and now realize or they did notice and don’t need you to tell them. But it felt weird for me to return to the blog-osphere without at least addressing the multitude of changes that have occurred in my life. First, I graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Rangeland Ecology concentrating on Restoration Ecology in December.

Here’s me standing next to the portrait of the founder of Warner College of Natural Resources

I moved back to my hometown and I got a job as a hostess and expeditor at FATE Brewing Company in January. They opened in February in Boulder, CO and I have loved working here and making new friends.

This photo is from their website

In April, I visited Portland, OR…

…with my mom, Debbie…

This is at a lovely breakfast place called Cheryl’s.

…and my best friend, Alyssa, and her mom, Wendy.

This photo of Alyssa and I is taken outside our hotel, Hotel D’Luxe

We sampled some local cuisine and toured and fell in love with the city.

Voodoo Doughnut

Also in April I started my second job with Boulder County Parks and Open Space. I am working in Education and Outreach, which means I get to go hiking in Boulder County at least twice a week talking to people about nature and the like. And they pay me to do that.

This is me in my uniform.

I also get to eat lunch with adorable critters like this Eastern Fence Lizard

…enjoy the beautiful wildflowers like this Rocky Mountain Columbine

…and churn butter, do laundry by hand, play games while dressed up like a 19th century prairie woman (Summer Heritage Event next Saturday 07/20 at 5:30pm at Walker Ranch).

On June 6th, I turned 23 years old, and was lucky enough to celebrate with my family and friends.

In June, I pet sit for the two most entertaining hounds I’ve ever met.

The black on is Stella and Hank is the brown one

 And just last week at the beginning of July I visited my best friend Kristen in L.A., CA (Hermosa Beach)

This is Kristen and I at the only winery we made it to (we meant to go to more but you forget things like that when you share a bottle of wine).
In Venice Beach we tried to match the cover of the Jack’s Mannequin album Everything in Transit
The fish market at Redondo Beach

So far it’s been a fabulous year. Except for the part when I got attacked by a wild turkey. That was one of those times when I wish I were on a reality television show because I bet it would be hilarious to watch now that the trauma has (sort of) worn off.

So I guess that’s the end of this post, you’re all caught up now and you can look forward to a post with a new workout on Workout Wednesday and a post about buttermilk cake on Food Fun Friday.

What’s that you say? You want to hear the story about the turkeys? Well okay if you insist.

It all started back when I was about 5 years old. A goose at the Denver Zoo bit me and ever since I have had an irrational fear of large birds in particular, but birds in general as well. They fly by, near your face and eyeballs, with those sharp beaks and gouging claws. Let’s not forget how closely they are related to dinosaurs like T-Rex. And then I saw that Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds and it was all over.

But recently, due to my job with BCPOS most likely, I have had to make peace with this fear. I have started observing birds in the wild (instead of avoiding eye contact) and found humor in some of their actions. I was even was able to see the cuteness of a goose when I saw these goslings at Walden Ponds, east of Boulder.

One fine day I was patrolling at Heil Valley Ranch, just west of Longmont, CO. I was on the Lichen Loop enjoying the slight breeze and the gentle sunshine. I came across a group of wild turkeys. They were nesting in this area so I’d heard them in the distance on prior trips and had even seen them from a distance but this group was just off the trail.

They are the strangest looking birds, with the wrinkled, sagging skin around their heads and necks and they make sounds that I can only describe as a gurgling metallic bleat (whatever that means). I observed them, and took a few pictures as they walked away from me. Then I set off to continue my hike. The end.

Just kidding…

I was barely past the larger group of turkeys when I saw and heard a patch of western wheatgrass near the trail rustle. It startled me but I figured it must have been the wind. Regardless, I turned to look more closely and saw the feathers of another turkey. She had flattened herself to the ground probably out of fear of the strange creature that had approached her with quick, noisy footsteps. I turned to leave her alone but she decided it was time to protect herself (and her chicks).

In one swift movement she had made herself as large as she could by throwing her wings out and over her back and was merping (another turkey sound) her head off. I yelled in a frightened sort of way, which might not have helped the situation. Then in what I can only assume was an effort to make herself more aerodynamic she put down her wings down close to her body, lowered her head and charged toward me. I circled around a rock because I didn’t know what else to do (probably smart as since I’ve heard that turkeys have been know to puncture car tires so there’s no telling how my bare legs would hold up).

She reversed her charge and came back around the rock from the other side, still in the same head-down, wings-in position. My memory is a little fuzzy but I remember being chased around this rock multiple times before I began my mad sprint down the mountain, (away from the trail in the direction I wanted to go, toward the bit of trail I had come in on) backpack bouncing up and down.

She chased me about 20 yards in a herding matter and all the while I am hollering and yelping. I don’t know if she exactly intended to chase me right toward where her chicks were cheeping around on a bare patch in the grass, but I was forced to leap over them. I counted about three, possible four, adorable balls of fluff and feathers as I careened by/over them. My radio, clipped to my backpack belt, broke and fell, lost in the tall grasses. My ponytail fell out of its fasten as my hat blew off my head. I snatched the hat out of the air before it was carried away on the wind.

She stopped on a boulder, like a sentinel, ensuring I was gone for good. Then in a panicky way she scurried around collecting the oblivious chicks. I made it back to the trail with adrenaline, fear and sadness pulsing through my veins, tears splashing down my cheeks. I knew it was no good to go forward so I turned around and went back, defeated by a turkey.

And that is the end. Except I did end up finding the radio. I know that was concerning all of you very much; a poor radio left out in the rain with mad, wild turkeys on the loose.

Tell me about your experience with wildlife, domestic animals, children in the comments below.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I decided to read this book for a few reasons:

  1. Many people recommended it to me,
  2. I think the title is intriguing, and
  3. I have a rule about not seeing movies before reading the book, but I wanted to see the movie since Emma Watson is in it. 🙂

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a marvelous coming of age story. The main character, Charlie, writes letters to an anonymous stranger throughout his first year of high school. He is generally misunderstood, his peers regard him as a freak, and his only friend dies before the school year starts through an act of suicide. When two half-sibling seniors, Sam and Patrick, take him under their wing his world begins to change.

The book is a quick and easy read but don’t let the simplicity fool you. The story has a depth. The reader learns that Charlie was molested by a family member, causing him to become a passive person, who allows others to do what they want with him. He witnesses a rape, he accepts drugs and alcohol, he has a girlfriend he doesn’t really like and he even allows his gay friend Patrick to kiss him during his post-breakup grieving period. Charlie doesn’t recognize that these things upset him because he sees they help others and he internalizes his own thoughts and feelings. Sam, encourages Charlie to express himself and show passion for his own desires.

Charlie learns about being a friend, sex and intimacy (though he himself does not have sex), drugs such as LSD, marijuana, and alcohol, homosexuality, homophobia (a scene where a father beats his gay son), Rocky Horror Picture Show, abortion (his sister), suicide, rape and molestation. He earns straight A’s in school and displays heartwarming relationships with his family (mom, dad, older sister, and older brother). Charlie also has a tender relationship with his English teacher who assigns him extra reading and work because he recognizes how special and intelligent Charlie is.

It’s hard to determine the way this book made me feel. I believe the writing was excellent and here’s why. I felt uncomfortable reading something so private (from a fictional character, yes! How can this be done?) Needless to say, it’s not a feel-good story but rather a question-humanity-and-your-very-existence kind of book.

My Favorite Quotes:

  • “We are infinite”
  • “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
  • “Zen is a day like this when you are part of the air and remember things.”
  • “I really think that everyone should have watercolors, magnetic poetry and a harmonica.”
  • “I don’t think we should base so much on weight, muscles, and a good hair day, but when it happens, it’s nice. It really is.”
  • “So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” 

What did you think?

About a Boy

In honor of National Book Lovers Day yesterday it’s only fitting that this post be a book review. I believe About a Boy by Nick Hornby is just the ticket. The story is nothing more than a slice of life with real characters in real situations feeling real feelings and thinking real thoughts. I bought the book at a local bookstore because I had seen the movie and loved the story.

nick hornby, book review, book cover, about a boy, british humor 


Really, there are two boys in this story: Marcus, a 12-year-old boy, and Will, a 36-year-old boy-at-heart. Will is a superficial bachelor who lives off the royalties he earns from his father’s one-hit-wonder Christmas tune, a song he despises. He treats life as an experiment, always trying new schemes to fill in the void, which he doesn’t understand. Marcus is an odd, blunt, and worldly young boy who both puzzles and startles his depressive mother, Fiona.

Through a random series of events these three characters come together. They each learn from the others some of life’s lessons they had been missing out on. Will learns what it means to be a grown-up and develops from an empty shell into someone with substance. Marcus opens up to some harsh truths of life and learns the importance of staying true to one’s self, no matter how peculiar. Fiona ascends from a very dark place and discovers a new reason to live. All this occurs through their ups and downs of life.

Briefly, I would like to compare the book with the movie, though it was not National Movie Lover’s Day yesterday (it doesn’t exist… I looked). I have to say that it was a true representation. There were some completely invented scenes present in the movie and many plot twists were abandoned (though plot twists were few and far between in the book). However, Will’s character practically screams, “Hugh Grant,” and the general idea was translated appropriately.

While the characters and the writing fall a bit flat, I appreciated the genuine humor Hornby presented and the realness of their struggles. This book is worth reading, especially as a quick summer book and if you enjoy British humor.

How did you like About a Boy (the book or movie)?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a somewhat biographical coming-of-age story about living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Mary Frances Nolan – Francie – is the central character and I was addicted to her from the start. I was surprised at how quickly I became fascinated with Francie. As a young girl Francie is keenly observant, and sensitive to the beauty of her world. Maybe I see myself in her. All I know is this was a book that was hard to put down.

betty smith, a tree grows in brooklyn, coming of age, book review, book cover 

“There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly . . . survives without sun, water, and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.” – Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


Storyline

At the opening Francie is 11 years old. She is the oldest child of Katie and Johnny Nolan. Her brother, Neeley (short for Cornelius) is 10. We are given a tour of their neighborhood as Francie runs errand for her mother, takes her daily trip to the library and watches her neighbors from the fire escape. We find out that Katie cleans houses in exchange for free rent of their apartment, and Johnny has unreliable income through waiting tables and singing.

The story then flashes back to the summer of 1900 when Katie and Johnny first meet. Katie decides she will go through any hardship just to be with Johnny when they first dance together. Within six months they are married and support themselves by working as janitors at a school. Stress begins to set in when Francie is born in December 1901 and Neeley just a year and a week later. As the stress of living in poverty and having children eats away at Johnny, he begins drinking.

Katie and Johnny are both second generation Americans. Katie’s family is a line of strong women from Austria. She has two older sisters, Sissy and Evy. Johnny, with Irish heritage, comes from a family of weak, yet talented men (he has three brothers).

Neeley and Francie start school the same year, though they are a year apart in age. Francie, a lover of learning, always looked forward to the day she could go to school but finds it to be cruel and harsh. She changes to a school where there is no discrimination against poor children, though she still makes no friends. The flashback then catches up with the beginning of the story.

The plot line continues with various events throughout Francie’s childhood. Francie’s first encounter with sex of any kind occurs around the age of 12. She comes face to face with the sex offender who has been terrorizing the neighborhood. Her mother saves her and Francie emerges relatively unscathed. Francie starts her period around this time and witnesses women of the neighborhood stoning a young girl because she became pregnant out of wedlock. This leads Francie to become more aware of the social taboos surrounding women and sexuality.

Francie gradually sees her father’s problem with alcohol, which worsens as she grows up. He is set over the edge when he is dismissed from the Union. When Johnny discovers Katie is pregnant again he weakens further and finally dies of pneumonia (and alcoholism) on Christmas Day, five months before Annie Laurie is born.

Johnny’s death changes Francie. She stops believing in God after a lifetime of Catholic faith. She stops writing the flowery compositions that had no relation to her life experiences but earned her high marks in English, replacing them with “sordid” compositions about her father, which concerned her teacher.

Francie’s sensitive and caring nature is lost as she becomes more and more like her mother. Katie was once romantic and flighty, but turns hard and determined as she takes on the burden of earning money and sacrifices “luxuries,” such as heat and meals, for her family.

After graduating from eighth grade, both Neeley and Francie must work because Katie cannot afford to keep them in school. Francie starts working at a factory then moves to a clippings bureau where she reads newspapers all day, learns about the world outside of Brooklyn, and desperately awaits the day she can return to high school.

Unfortunately Katie, who can only afford to send one child back to school, sends Neeley instead of Francie. Although Francie never returns to high school she does take summer college courses and with Francie’s job the Nolans are able to live more comfortably.

When the United States of America enters World War I, Francie first experiences romantic love. It comes in the form of Lee Rynor, whom she falls in love with within the first 48 hours after meeting. He leaves Francie heartbroken when he marries his fiancée before heading off to war. Then Francie discovers that she enjoys the company of Ben Blake, a boy she met in summer school.

Officer McShane, a kind older man who has admired Katie from afar (and she him), asks Katie to marry him. He says he will make it possible for Laurie to grow up without hardship in exchange for the chance to be her father. He also gives Francie and Neeley a chance to go to college. Francie gets ready to attend college at the University of Michigan with Ben and the Tree of Heaven continues to grow in her backyard.

Themes and Patterns

Poverty is major themes throughout this story. Nearly every anecdote and character deals with poverty in some way. Poverty applies not only to a lack of food and heat but also results in the growing worthlessness of Johnny and ultimately his death. Resources are limited, people are exploited, but poverty is presented as the evil, not people. Everyone is thinking of his or her own family first.

Class is another theme that Smith often shows through encounters between the lower class and people of privilege. Having money may lead to an easier life but the lovable characters are those who are or once were impoverished. The rich doctor who vaccinates Francie is presented as a villain and Francie’s English teacher, who claims to have grown up with hardship, misunderstands Francie’s compositions. Neeley and Francie pity Laurie for growing up with privilege because she will not have as much fun.

A prominent theme in this book is education. Johnny, Katie and Mary Rommely (Katie’s mother) have very different personalities, but they can all agree on one thing: education is the way out for the Nolan children. Through a combination of schooling and life lessons they lead the children out of poverty; each generation receives more education than the last.

Gender roles stands out to me as a further theme. Mary Rommely states upon the birth of Francie, “to be born a woman is to be born into a humble life of pain.” This comment can be applied to both life’s pains and the pain of childbirth. Women of all faiths and socioeconomic backgrounds experience the same pain in labor. However, all the women in this book are more than equipped to handle these pains and depicted as strong while men are generally shown as the weaker sex.

Katie and Johnny are presented with the same life choices and Katie is determined to give opportunities to her children in the face of hardship while Johnny slips into a drunken dreamworld. Francie is more eager to return to school but Katie send Neeley because both women understand that Neeley would not find a way to go back where Francie will do whatever it takes to learn more at school. Aunt Evy is independent and tough and Uncle Flittman is inadequate.

Since this is a coming-of-age tale it is only natural that a fall from innocence would be not only a theme but a motif. Francie learns more and more about the world, poverty, class, status, gender, and sex, which in turn causes her to become less and less innocent. Her appreciation of small material things as a young girl turns into her realization of their hardships. Often Francie presents her fall from innocence as feeling as if she is dreaming.

The “fall” refers to both things that brought Francie pain and things that brought her knowledge. The Tree of Heaven can be viewed as a Tree of Knowledge. The tree grows up and out of very difficult situations in the same way that Francie learns through reading and life events in order to get out of poverty.

Tree of Heaven

This symbol is most interesting to me, perhaps because I love trees so much or perhaps because the idea is appealing. The tree in the title grows only in tenement districts, because it “likes poor people.” It represents perseverance in times of hardship. When Francie is born, Katie likens her life to the tree’s: Francie will keep living no matter how sick she becomes. All over Brooklyn this tree grows where no other can and out-competes those that do. When the Nolans have a fir on their fire escape they care for it with water and manure but it dies. The Tree of Heaven that grows from the concrete in their yard was cut down and a new one grew out of it’s trunk.

The tree is abundant throughout Brooklyn and is familiar to Francie, who sees it every day. It isn’t stately like the sea or mountains majesty. It is humble, and this humility makes it all the more powerful.

When Francie leaves Brooklyn, Florrie Wendy symbolically takes her place. The tree grew for Francie, it will grow for Florrie, too, as it must have for Flossie Gaddis before Francie.

Do you agree with my analysis? What themes do you find in this story?

Every Book In the Entire World

Many of you might know that my first project this summer was my patio garden and the hanging gutter garden. Now that my only responsibility in the garden is to water once or twice a day and harvest what comes up, I’ve been working on my next project: reading.


I was inspired to read ALL the books after reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (***UPDATE*** read the review here) to read because she has a goal to read all the book in her library starting with A and ending with Z. I’m taking the opportunity to start now.

Over the years (since high school or maybe earlier) I’ve kept lists of books I want to read. Some can be found on odd bits of paper, other on my Pinterest board and still more in notebooks. I finally compiled all of these lists into one massive list, and I mean MASSIVE. It’s an excel spread sheet with tabs for which list the books came from and is conditionally formatted so that once I’ve read the book the box will change color (I have a lot of time on my hands).

Some of the books are classics, some are modern, there are fiction and non-fiction, poetry and history and everything else you can think of and I will be reading, quite literally, until I die.

I don’t just want to read the books; I want to analyze them as well. The way I did in high school, which is why I am also planning to write reviews for each book as I finish it and post it here, on my blog. The first one was Life of Pi (read it here). I also wrote a bit about Harry Potter (read it here). So that’s the plan.

 If you’re interested in my books lists…

Books that were recommended to me by friends, family, professors and/or my own bookshelf:

Websites with other booklists:


What’s on your book list? What is your favorite book?

Life of Pi

I’ve never been shipwrecked, or out at sea for that matter. But author Yann Matel has written a story that made me experience the hunger, and the thirst, the cold, and the heat, the dryness, and the wetness, the fear, and the joy, the disgust, and the beauty of being lost at sea in his novel Life of Pi. The story, which is centered around antagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel is broken into three parts all told through the eyes of a middle-aged Pi Patel: Pi’s childhood, Pi’s experience in the open sea, and Pi’s conversation with Japanese officials.

life of pi, yann martel, book review, book cover, philosophy, religion 


I love this book because all the events throughout the story, set in 1977, are so unbelievable that you can’t help but want to believe them. The story-telling is so fantastic that even in the face of doubt you trust his story. I feel what Pi feels, see what Pi sees, smell what Pi smells, and I believe it to be true.

In a question and answer session with Yann Martel, he says that he loves the idea of the name Pi as a nickname for Piscine. Pi tells us the story of his name: his uncle was a lover of swimming and talked of the pools in France, one called “Piscine Molitar“. Martel says, “I liked the irony of a boy named after a rational volume of water being adrift in an uncontrollable volume of water, the Pacific.” Pi spends years of his childhood teased about this name, (sounds like “pissing”) so that when he switches schools he decides to call himself Pi, after the Greek letter used by mathematicians to stand in for an irrational number. Martel says it stuck him that a number used to bring understanding could be called irrational, which is how he sees religion as well: something irrational that helps make sense of things.

Pi was born Hindu, but at 14 he was introduced to Christianity and Islam. He follows all three of these religions because he just “wants to love God.” Pi is searching for meaning in the world and he looks through the lenses of these three religions to help him find perspective on this journey. He sees a portion of truth and a portion of error with each religion but all have similar messages for him.

Pi’s father owns a zoo in Pondicerry, which has provided Pi with a gateway into animal psychology during his youth. When his family decides to sell their animals and move to Canada due to political concerns in India, they board a small Japanese freighter carrying some of their animals. So begins part two of the story.

A few days after leaving India the ship sinks. Pi ends up in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, A spotted hyena, an injured zebra and an orangutan: the only survivors.

During the first few days of Pi’s voyage in open seas he witnesses heinous violence from the hyena, which eats the still living zebra bit-by-bit. The hyena also kills the orangutan in a vicious manner. Then Richard Parker kills the hyena, leaving Pi alone with a 400-pound tiger.

Pi finds food, water and supplies in the lifeboat; steadily the supplies run out and he begins fishing. Pi feeds himself and Richard Parker, he wants to keep Richard Parker alive to avoid complete solitude, but he also know that he cannot outlast Richard Parker and he wants to avoid being eaten. Pi refers to his knowledge of animal psychology and decides he must make sure Richard Parker knows that Pi is the alpha and Richard Parker the omega animal, this way he can keep his territory and hopefully stay alive. He goes through many training sessions with Richard Parker using a whistle, treats, and seasickness to drive the point home.

The story gets very bleak when both Pi and Richard Parker become blind. I believe this was due to bad nutrition and excessive exposure to sun. During his blindness Pi encounters another blind seafarer, a French man with an obsession for meat. Pi naïvely welcomes the man into his boat where the man reveals his cannibalistic nature and becomes a snack for dear old Richard Parker. Two days, and much rinsing with salt water, bring back Pi’s sight.

Then comes the strangest part yet. The pair encounter a mysterious island, seemingly constructed of edible algae supporting a forest and a large population of meercats. Each day Richard Parker and Pi venture onto the island and each night they return to their lifeboat. One night Pi decides to stay on the island at night and sleeps in a tree, which is quickly over run by meercats who also sleep in the trees. When Pi discovers a “fruit” in the tree with a single human molar at the center he discovers the carnivorous nature of the algae and becomes frightened of it. Richard Parker and Pi return to their lifeboat and continue on their way.

Finally the lifeboat reaches the coast of Mexico where Richard Parker escapes into the jungle without so much as a goodbye. Pi is disappointed by this unceremonious departure but is quickly found by his rescuers.

*****SPOILER ALERT*****


*****Read on at your own risk*****


***You’ve been warned!***


Part three of the story is written like a transcript of an interview (because that is what it is). Two official from the Japanese maritime department question Pi about the sinking of the ship. Pi tells them his story, which they do not believe. In hopes of having his suffering validated, he tells them a second story without the animals. He recounts a story of human brutality, being adrift on a lifeboat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg, and the ship’s French cook, who killed the sailor and Pi’s mother and cut them up to use as bait and food. Parallels to Pi’s first story lead the Japanese officials to believe that the orangutan represents his mother, the zebra represents the sailor, the hyena represents the cook, and Richard Parker is Pi himself.

After revealing that neither version of Pi’s story ascertains why the ship sank, and that no one can really know the truth, Pi asks which version the officers prefer. They both prefer the version with the animals to the version without animals. Pi thanks them and says, “and so it goes with God.”

Martel shares that he wrote the story to become more and more unbelievable as it goes on. He says that he understands readers will have doubts but hopes they will choose the first story as the better story. For that reason he included something unbelievable in the story we choose to believe.

To me it is interesting that Martel included a cannibalistic Frenchman in both versions of the story. If you interpret his appearance in the first story, when Pi is blind, he might appear to be a ghost of the French cook Pi killed in the second story. Just a thought.

Have you read Life of Pi? What are your interpretations? 

15 Things I Learned From Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling has been a big part of my life ever since I read the first books in third grade. I have devoured the series more times than I can count, soaked in the movies (which I love however disappointed I was in most of them), and researched every drop of information I can sponge up. You can imagine that something that I can still honestly say I adore, more than 13 years later must have given something to my soul. Harry, Ron and Hermione are my family, Dumbledore, Ginny, Luna, Neville, Snape, McGonagall, Hagrid, Dobby, Fang, Sirius, Lupin, Fred, George, Seamus, Dean, Lavender, Parvati, Molly, Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fleur, Victor, Lee, Cedric, Tonks, Mad-Eye, Angelina, Katie, Alicia, etc. etc. etc. They’re all are my friends. They will live in my heart. After all this time. Always.

So the list begins…

1. Don’t Fear the Reaper

Death is a theme, particularly emphasized in the Harry Potter books. Harry, who was orphaned as a baby, has led a life that has been considerably influenced by Death. Gradually as Harry grows and evolves into a man his journey takes him to a place where death is not something to be feared. After all, a fear of death is what led to the Hogwarts ghosts, something Harry realizes when Sirius Black dies.

King's Cross chapter art, Harry Potter, Deathly Hallows 
Source: Book Chapter Art

In the great words of Albus Dumbledore, two quotes:
“To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.”


2. Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Severus Snape, the Potions Master at Hogwarts is the best example of this; he is presented as the sneering, bullying villain with a vendetta against Harry. When his motivations are revealed in the Deathly Hallows we learn that his actions were born out of love rather than hate (or mostly love).

Dumbledore: “After all this time?” (Referring to his love for Lily Evans, later Lily Potter)
“Always.” said Snape.


3. Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

After six books of bickering, pining, sulking and pretending to be indifferent toward each other, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger finally share a passionate kiss in the Deathly Hallows.

ron and hermione, harry potter, fan art, deathly hallows 

There was a clatter as the basilisk fangs cascaded out of Hermione’s arms. Running at Ron, she flung them around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. Ron threw away the fangs and broomstick he was holding and responded with such enthusiasm that he lifted Hermione off her feet.
“Is this the moment?” Harry asked weakly, and when nothing happened except that Ron and Hermione gripped each other still more firmly and swayed on the spot, he raised his voice. “OI! There’s a war going on here!”
Ron and Hermione broke apart, their arms still around each other.
“I know, mate,” said Ron… “so it’s now or never, isn’t it?”


4. Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own

Harry, throughout the series, continually feels (sometimes aggravatingly) that he must face his destiny alone, only to have his friends prove invaluable. In the Sorceror’s Stone, Ron and Hermione use their respective abilities of chess-playing and logic to help Harry through to the stone. And how can we forget Ron and Hermione’s defiance about helping Harry collect and destroy Horcruxes?

chapter art, harry potter, ran weasley, hermione granger, 12 grimwauld place 
Source: Book Chapter Art

“We’ll be there, Harry,” said Ron…
“No—“ said Harry quickly…he was undertaking this dangerous journey alone.
“You said to us once before,” said Hermione quietly, “that there was a time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we?”
“We’re with you whatever happens,” said Ron.


5. Decisions, Decisions

Harry and Tom Riddle, both extraordinarily proficient wizards, led different lives not based on their skills but rather on the various choices they made along the way. Harry makes the choice to become a Gryffindor (rather than a Slytherin) when he puts on the sorting hat because he trusts his new friendship with Ron. Tom uses the Slytherin house, his irresistible charm, and his desire for power, which led him down a dark path.

The Sorting Hat, chapter art, harry potter, slytherin, gryfindor, hufflepuff, ravenclaw 
Source: Book Chapter Art

Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.
“Not Slytherin, eh?” said the small voice. “Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that— no? Well if you’re sure—better be GRYFFINDOR!”
Also a quote from Dumbledore: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”


6. The Power of Love

His inability either to love or to fathom its power is what prevents Voldemort from killing Harry from the beginning. Harry’s father, James, died in a fight while his mother, Lily, died protecting baby Harry.

baby harry, harry potter, lily, love, fan art 

Yet another quote from our favorite wizard, Dumbledore: “If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark.”


7. The Easy Way Out

Choices are an integral part of any good story. In Harry Potter we find that the more difficult choice are inevitably the right choice, which must be made. Voldemort’s rise to power is the result of those facing him choosing the easy option (to live under his rule, rather than fight or perish). Cornelius Fudge’s refusal to admit the return of Voldemort was easier than preparing for the first stages of war.

harry potter, mugglenet, the only one he ever feared, dumbledore, voldemort, tom riddle ministry of magic 

Another wise Dumbledore quote “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”


8. Hell Hath No Fury, Like a Woman Scorned

This is made perfectly evident by the reaction Hermione has to Lavender Brown and Ron’s (short-lived) romance.

yellow canaries, ron weasley, hermione granger, lavender brown, harry potter, fan art 

The door behind them burst open. To Harry’s horror, Ron came in, laughing, pulling Lavender by the hand…
“Oops!” said Lavender, and she backed out of the room, giggling…
Hermione slid off the desk. The little flock of golden birds continued to twitter in circles around her head…
“You shouldn’t leave Lavender waiting outside,” she said quietly…
She walked very slowly and erectly toward the door. Harry glanced at Ron who looked relieved that nothing worse had happened.
“Oppugno!” came a shriek from the doorway.
Harry spun around to see Hermione pointing her wand at Ron, her expression wild: The little flock of bird speeding like a hail of fat golden bullets toward Ron, who yelped and covered his face with his hands, but the birds attacked, pecking and clawing at every bit of flesh they could reach.


9. Heart’s Desire

The Mirror of Erised shows those who look upon it the “deepest and most desperate desires of one’s heart. It is presented as a device with a destructive, almost maddening influence on the beholder. While when Harry’s sees his parents at first it is a comfort to him, he begins to become obsessed with the mirror, until Dumbledore is forced to step in.

mirror of erised, heart's desire, harry potter, lily and james, mugglenet 

One more quote from Dumbledore, that sage old wizard: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember, that.”


10. Money Can’t Buy Me Love

The Weasley family has hardly two knuts to rub together, and yet Rowling presents them as the happiest and most loving of all her characters. The Malfoys on the other hand are rolling in galleons, and yet they spend much of the saga wracked with guilt, worry and anxiety.

“…my name is Malfoy, Draco Malfoy.”
Ron gave a slight cough, which might have been hiding a snigger. Draco Malfoy looked at him.
“Think my name’s funny, do you? No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford.”


11. Fear Can Be Conquered

During Remus Lupin’s time as Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher, he explains that the reason Harry suffers so much in the presence of the Dementors is because of his fear of fear. In time, Harry masters his fear, and the art of the Patronus charm, using focus and determination (and a memory he isn’t even sure is real).

dementor, remus lupin, harry potter, boggart 

“I assumed that if the Boggart faced you, it would assume the shape of Lord Voldemort.”
Harry stared…
“Clearly, I was wrong,” said Lupin, still frowning at Harry. “But I didn’t think it a good idea for Lord Voldemort to materialise in the staff room. I imagined that people would panic.”
“I did think of Voldemort first,” said Harry honestly. “But then I – I remembered those Dementors.”
“I see,” said Lupin thoughtfully. “Well, well… I’m impressed.” He smiled slightly at the look of surprise on Harry’s face. “That suggests that what you fear most of all is – fear. Very wise, Harry.”


12. Protect the Nest

Even with her evil reputation, Bellatrix Lestrange makes a critical error when she threatens to kill Ginny Weasley. Molly Weasley might have seen one child die at the battle of Hogwarts, but when threatened again she proves that she won’t let ANYONE repeat that trick.

molly weasley, harry potter, bellatrix lestrange fan art 

“NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!”…”OUT OF MY WAY!” Shouted Mrs. Weasley… “No!!” Mrs. Weasley cried as a few students ran forward, trying to come to her aid. “Get back! Get back! She is mine!”
“What will happen to your children when I’ve killed you?” taunted Bellatrix… capering as Molly’s curses danced around her. “When Mummy’s gone the same way as Freddie?”
“You — will — never — touch — our — children — again!” screamed Mrs. Weasley…
Molly’s curse soared beneath Bellatrix’s outstretched arm and hit her squarely in the chest, directly over her heart… and then she toppled…


13. Diversity is Might

Where Voldemort might tell you “Magic is Might,” I say “Diversity is Might.” Throughout the saga, Harry finds himself befriending society’s outcasts, again and again. There’s Rubeus Hagrid the half-giant, Dobby a house-elf, Firenze a centaur, and “Loony” Luna Lovegood who lives by her own rules. Even Griphook, a goblin who might not be considered a friend, helps Harry because of his reputation for loving all beings. These are the characters who often dig Harry and his friends out of the tightest situations.

chapter art, harry potter, dobby, s.p.e.w., house elf, hermione granger 
Source: Book Chapter Art

“You dirty little monkey!” bawled Bellatrix. “How dare you take a witch’s wand, how dare you defy your masters?”
“Dobby has no master!” squealed the elf. “Dobby is a free elf, and Dobby has come to save Harry Potter and his friends!”


14. Treat All With Kindness

Along the same lines as number thirteen, Harry treated every being he met with the same kindness no matter their social standing, when they deserved it. (Dolores Umbridge, and Draco Malfoy are notable exceptions, also, Voldemort, of course). Kreacher, the Black family house elf, helps Harry because Harry was kind to him, Sirius’s mistreatment of Kreacher led ultimately to his death.

harry potter, chapter art, kreacher, sirius black, 12 grimwauld place 
Source: Book Chapter Art

“I warned Sirius when we adopted twelve Grimmauld Place as our headquarters that Kreacher must be treated with kindness and respect. I also told him that Kreacher could be dangerous to us. I do not think that Sirius took me very seriously, or that he ever saw Kreacher as a being with feelings as acute as a human’s.” (One last Dumbledore quote)


15. When You Believe

Self-confidence is presented as a key component in magical prophecy. We watch Neville Longbottom’s journey from the very first book, in which he is a hopeless wizard due to low self-esteem brought on from his grandmother. As he grows older and begins to be self-assured he matures into one of the most important figures in the story.

neville longbottom, gryfindor, house points 
Couldn’t resist using this photo 😉

Voldemort: “You show spirit and bravery, and you come of noble stock. You will make a very valuable Death Eater. We need your kind, Neville Longbottom.”
“I’ll join you when hell freezes over,” said Neville. “Dumbledore’s Army!” he shouted, and there was an answering cheer from the crowd…


Adapted from 50 Things We Learned From Harry Potter by Total Film

My favorite Harry Potter sites:

How has Harry Potter changed your life? What themes that I didn’t share are important to you?

How to Yoga: and Other Life Lessons

I have been practicing yoga routinely since I started college, four years ago. Before that it was an occasional activity that I enjoyed but was never too attached too. Now, I find it hard to sleep, and my muscles feel stiff if I miss even a day. I feel that every person has a different experience when practicing yoga, and I don’t claim to be an expert, or even that good at it, but I do think that I have learned a few thing in my four years.


Stay Present
My life is full of distractions: what are we having for dinner, I need to check my email, how much homework do I have, etc. Yoga is my escape from all of that.  The only problem is letting myself escape.  Most of the time my mind wanders away from quality breathing and properly setting-up poses to these other thoughts that seem so urgent. When I DO get my thoughts focused in, not only does this helps with my yoga practice, but also helps de-clutter my life.



Wear Yoga Pants


‘nough said

Breathe
If there is one thing I know, it’s that breathing is the best medicine, both inside and outside the yoga practice. Breathing is something that’s taken years of practice for me to learn especially with tough poses. The same way a sigh can relieve tension during a stressful argument, the proper exhale or inhale of breathe can relieve tension in muscles.



Don’t Give Up
There are hundreds of poses that are too difficult for me to even fathom at this point in my yoga practice. I know it will take time and practice to get there, but I won’t get there if I give up.


Laugh at Yourself
Every sport and activity on the planet has a few nuts who take it too seriously. I always take time to laugh at the nut I see in myself. I wrote this song to Tik-Tok by Ke$ha once.

Wake up in the morning feeling like Siddhartha, grab my mat it’s on the floor this isn’t Sparta, start chlid’s pose, downward dog, sun salutations holmes, ‘Cause when I do lotus pose, I can be like “om.” 😉

Also, Yoga: the complete and balanced parts of breakfast.