Playing Many Parts

Book Review – The Girl on the Train

the_girl_on_the_train_us_cover_2015I always read the book first.  Since I am a prolific reader I have promised myself that I will always, if at all possible, read the book first.  Before it is made into a movie, and someone else gets to put their interpretation of a book forward as the definitive point of view for millions of people, I want to let my imagination create the world the author has written.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, and might do that to contrast and compare, but I liked the book quite a bit and found it compelling enough to continue reading even though I was quite sure I had figured out the plot a couple of chapters in.  I was right.  It went in the direction I expected, but I think the author intended it that way. . if I ever get the chance to ask her, I will.  There was some important foreshadowing early on that sort of gave things away and that seems like a smart intentional guide. . a kind of Easter Egg for good readers.

I liked this book because I love murder mysteries.  I also love women’s issues and a strong female lead with romance and complications. . .so this book was very interesting to me.  I don’t want to admit it, but I saw parts of myself in the heroine of the story.  I liked very much how Rachel grew and developed and it all seemed somewhat real. . if not romanticized. . but its a novel (it says so on the cover), so I expect that.  Emily Blunt is my Rachel, but that is fine, I look forward to the movie.

Book Review: The Nightingale

It’s been two weeks since I finished this book and I am still mourning the loss of these characters.  This was a very well written book.  Had I known it was a book about survivors of WWII I probably wouldn’t have read it, but once started, I had to finish.

Both the character development and the beautiful scenery descriptions made these old friends in a place I knew well, even though I have never been to Paris or France.  The quickly moving plot in this historical fiction had me turning pages almost as quickly as when I read the last pages of  The Historian.

I have not read other books by Kristin Hannah, but I now have several of her others on my Amazon wish list and am anxious for my next vacation so I can start a reading marathon.  This was a very happy, unexpected surprise 5 star read for me.  Others have noted that her characters are more modern than a housewife in the 40s would have been, but it is an 80 year old living in the 1990s telling the story, so it all seemed believable to me, but then again, I wasn’t around in 1940 to know.  It seems to me to be a well crafted story of wartime France.

The Key to Happiness

birthdaycakeI turned another year older yesterday.  It wasn’t a milestone of any kind, but after 35, turning another year older can be more and more depressing, if your perspective isn’t right.

I did wake up yesterday feeling a bit glum.  I didn’t have any plans for my big day, my own fault, but still sad.  I had to work all day at a job I don’t love.  And the worst part of all, family and friends were all busy and I was planning a quiet dinner and cake alone.  I do NOT recommend this approach to a birthday.  If you want to be happy, do not spend your birthday alone eating cake.  That is recipe for both weight gain and misery.

However, something kinda awesome happened after I showered and got my first cup of coffee yesterday that kept me from going down a dark hole of self pity and sadness.  I started thinking of all the things I am grateful for.  I literally started counting things I love about my life and was soon overwhelmed with peace and even happiness.  As I got in the car and headed off to work, I kept thinking about more things I was thankful for. And as I was getting happier and happier, nice little surprises started coming my way.  I got a beautiful card from my Mom, my daughter posted a generous note to my FB wall, many friends sent me well wishes, and I even got a surprise monetary kickback from my bank!

I started to wonder if maybe being thankful not only changes how we feel, but changes how others feel about us. Could it be that being thankful opens us to receive more?  Since I was so happy and open, others were able to be open with me. They were free to share thoughts and feelings and I could graciously receive them.  All I know for sure is that when I could have easily gone down a dark road yesterday, being thankful saved my day.  It seems to me that if you are counting your blessings, noting all the things you are thankful for, it is hard to be sad.  If you start to realize all the things you have (it helps to remember that most of the world lives on less than a dollar a day), it is hard to feel sorry for yourself.

So I challenge you empty nesters who are sad, depressed, and looking for ways to make it through another day to start counting you blessings every morning.  Count things like being able to shower.  Clean drinking water from your tap.  A place to live and sleep.  Your next meal or cup of coffee is a real blessing.  You are alive today.  You are probably reading this on a smart phone, computer or tablet.  Are you employed?  Have kids?  Have a significant other who makes you smile ever?  Do you enjoy your freedom?  Are you educated?  Try to come up with a list of at least 10 things you can be thankful for.  Then try 100.  How about 1,000?

10 Ways to Earn a Little In Your Empty Nest

clocks-nickWhen you are an Empty Nester, one of the things that is so overwhelming, at least for me, is the amount of free hours I now have on nights and weekends.  I can bathe, feed and exercise myself quickly and then often have several hours of free time to fill.  I have passions, dreams, things I want to do and places I want to go, so how to create the extra money so I can do those things?  I have developed a small list of services mostly that I can provide quickly to my friends, neighbors and community.  Here are my go-to quick money makers that also make me happy and give me a sense of purpose.

1.  Dog walking and sitting.  Since I have to walk my dog daily, I can advertise on Craigslist or in the paper that I will do this for others for a small fee.

2.  Child sitting.  If you really like and miss having kids around, why not offer your time helping a mom with small children?  And ad in the paper advertising your free time and experience may get you more jobs than you can handle.

3.  Writing.  You can write an article about parenting, cooking, cleaning or whatever.  You could offer guest blog posts, contact you community paper, or submit articles to one of your favorite magazines.

4.  Cleaning Service.  Are you a great home cleaner or organizer?  Why not put out the feelers to see if there are people interested in your help in this area?  Again, Craigslist and your local newspaper are great resources.

5.  Musical Instrument Lessons.  My kids could always find people who wanted to learn to play whatever instrument they were mastering at any given time.  My son taught drum lessons to kids one summer and my daughter was always giving private flute lessons, do you play an instrument?  Piano lessons are harder and harder to find.

6.  Math/Tech/Science/English Lessons.  Put all those hours your spent helping your kids with their homework to good use now.  You probably have several good years of experience helping kids and teens learn everything from basic math to Algebra and even Reading.  Offer you skills to a school or youth center near your home.

7.  Sports tutoring.  Are you a former tennis champ?  Play basketball for 4 years on your high school team?  Did you play soccer or star on the volleyball team?  Lots of kids can’t afford expensive sports camp in the summer, but they may be able to pay for a few private lessons from someone who loves their sport.

8.  Baking or Cooking Classes.  Do you love to cook certain foods or bake cakes or pies?  You could offer classes online, at your library, or at a local craft store.  You of course could try Craigslist and your newspaper again, but try to think of audiences and places where people gather who may need your help.

9.  Housewife Training.  I know when I was a young mother and wife I had no idea how to organize my life in a way that made it easy to get all the house work, kid work, and spouse work done.  Could you offer articles, services or advice somewhere to young women who are just starting out?

10.  Financial Advice.  Are you a genius at finding, keeping and making money?  Could you write or talk about that?    Is there a local business or group who would love to have you come in and show others how to do that through chats or classes?

These are really simple ideas that you can work on and develop further.  The internet is full of sites that can help you gain a larger audience once you have chosen your niche and are ready to share.  Enjoy, have fun, and send out all that knowledge you developed over many years of hard work raising great kids!

10 Ways to Beat Empty-Nest Blues

Chicks are Cute

Chicks are Cute

My chicks are gone. . .and I have an empty nest.  I don’t mind too much most of the time, but there are days when I get sad and then confused by what my new role in life is.  On those days when nostalgia threatens to darken my mood, I have found a few ways to punch it in the nose and do an about face to get my mood back on the happy track.  Here are some of my tips for remembering how awesome life is no matter where my children are.

1.  Explore old hobbies.  I used to play tennis in high school and love it.  It also helped me keep fit, so I am picking up my racket once again and re-teaching myself to play.

2.  Learn new hobbies.  I always wanted to learn to play the piano.  I am going to do that now, a bit at a time.  I haven’t decided yet how I will do this, so if you have suggestions please let me know.

3.  Read.  I love to read, but often felt guilty when my kids were younger taking time away from them to read fiction.  I now find I have plenty of hours in the day for TV, so I am turning that trap off and reading all those books I meant to years ago.

4.  Take online classes.  I absolutely love online courses.  I can learn about everything from Math to French Cooking through online courses.  I have signed up for free classes and have paid for some too and have enjoyed both.  I took a class on Science Fiction from the University of Michigan and a class on web design from Udemy.

5.  Start an exercise routine.  Now is definitely the part of my life where I can carve out time to get fit before it is too late.  All those TV hours can at least be put to use even if I can’t totally give up my guiltiest pleasure.  I can do plenty of situps, pushups, planks and jumping jacks while catching up on the last season of The Good Wife.

6.  Work on eating healthier.  Since I am only cooking for two now, I am finding it much easier to try new recipes with strange ingredients like kale, brussels sprouts and edamame.

7.  Adopt a pet.  I never thought adopting a dog from the shelter could be so amazing.  There are so many reasons why this is a great idea, but the top two are I now have someone I can still mother, and I have a walking buddy who can’t wait to go outside and get some exercise with me!

8.  Make new friends of all ages.  I have found that spending time with friends from some of my community groups of different ages has kept me feeling younger.  It is awesome to hear the opinions of younger women and I love hearing how older women are redefining themselves as they age.

9.  Watch stand-up comedy.  Laughter is just good medicine.  If you don’t believe me, Google it.  I have also found that in addition to making me laugh and smile, comedy routines are a fun way to keep up with all that crazy stuff that is happening in the world.  Even if the spin is a bit odd sometimes.

10.  Write a book.  Every woman has enough material for a book by the time she has an empty nest.  Childhood and teen years are awkward, funny, crazy times for kids and their parents.  I bet you have plenty of stories to tell that will be very entertaining to others who have similar experiences. . .maybe you can even be that stand-up comic from #9!

That’s it for now, my kinda “tongue-in-cheek” list of things to try if you are having a hard time adjusting to life at home without your kids.  I would love to hear back from you with fun ways to remind yourself that you used to be an entirely different person before your life was turned upside down by kids!

Finding Friends – I’m On a Mission

So in light of my post the other day, I am on a mission to find awesome people to be friends with.  I know they are out there, quotes on friendshipbecause I have two or three who are really awesome.  As I started thinking about them, and how much I really like them, I started making a mental list of things I am looking for and things I want to avoid.  All people sometimes suck.  I really do believe that, but there are people who mostly don’t suck. . .them I want to find.

Here are some traits my awesome friends have:

  • They can sympathize with me when hurt, but keep me in check when I get too negative
  • They love to laugh, and dance, and drink wine or beer or something ( I think this is what keeps them sane)
  • They are edgy, a little bit on the dark side, but not cave dwellers
  • Life has roughed them up enough that they know life is hard, but they have decided to keep fighting anyway
  • They love to read (there are days I just need to bury my head in a book and they get it)
  • They are open minded.  We all need to keep learning things everyday and as we do, our worldview grows and expands and I need them to be able to keep up with change and not always fight it

Here are some traits my awesome friends don’t have:

  • They aren’t mean just to be mean
  • They aren’t overly judgmental; they can make up their mind, but they want you to do you and me to do me
  • They don’t really want to talk about other people, just about me and them, which is fine
  • They don’t hold every angry word ever said against me, and I don’t against them either, shit happens, we forgive and forget and move on
  • They aren’t passive aggressive, they say what they mean and mean what they say

There is plenty more, and I need to think about it longer . . . but I am going to work really hard on being more like my awesome friends and look for more people like them.  I do realize that my friendships are only as good as me.  What I nourish will grow and what I neglect will whither and die, both in myself and in my life.

I am Good Enough!

My childhood was filled with rejection.  I wasn’t a favorite kid on the block and I didn’t keep friends for long.  Then, when I was 11, I faced the ultimate rejection.  Not only was I completely spurned by a close friend of many years, but she in turn got most of my Jr. High classmates to dislike me too.  What can I say, kids are cruel with very little built in compassion.  Since then, I have guarded my heart and my life to keep from ever being hurt like that again.

To deal with the hurt and rejection back then, I immediately lost 20 pounds and worked on my appearance. By the time I entered High School, not only did most people like me again, but I landed a relationship with the boy everyone wanted to date.  I’m not bragging; none of that mattered.  The hurt had been done, the wounds went deep, and 30 years later I am still dealing with those scars.

I was deeply hurt again this weekend by family members and find myself reeling today, caught up in a very dark and evil place.  The adult woman knows I need to push it aside, move on and get over it.  In my head I understand that their rejection is far more about their character short comings than mine.  But, the 11 year old girl still in me is hunched over in the corner crying her eyes out and screaming “Why does no one love me?!”  I am left wondering this morning how I begin to heal this long pent up pain so I can rationally see these situations for what they are and move on in love and healing.

The first step I am taking is to remove that silly song above from my mind.  I do have people in my life who care for me as much as they are able.  It may not be perfect, but then clearly neither am I.  I choose today to reflect back on some different silly words, and realize that they are actually a far healthier personal mantra for me than the one above!  “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!”

Based on some other blogs and websites I have come across this morning, I am not the only one who suffers with such low self-esteem.  Even Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss have recently addressed this topic in their special ways.  We live in a world where bullies are everywhere and everyone seems to be their own worst critic.  Not me, not anymore.  I am going to work on this until not only do situations like this not crush me, but I am able to embrace multiple friendships and welcome people into my inner circle with ease and little care for how they will hurt me.  I am choosing to flip the switch, however I can, and choose to look for good, and love and all the positive stuff I can in others and in myself.  There is always bad, but there is always good too.  Where can I find that good?

Great Book – Great Person

I don’t even remember where I heard about this book, which is a real shame, because I owe someone a really big thank you!  My favorite line:  “Screw it – just do it!.”  I liked that line so much, I let it inspire me and I am finally starting that business I have been dreaming of for years.  So to say this changed my life is actually a true statement for me.

I have made it a new habit this year to read through some great business books on my way to work.  It was either find a way to make my very stupid, overcrowded, long commute through very backed up Chicago traffic more enjoyable; or go to jail for smashing my way through to get to work in a reasonable amount of time.  Since my commute isn’t changing anytime soon, and jail will definitely NOT work with my claustrophobia, I decided I need to put this time to good use.  Audiobooks that teach new things are really a great way to learn all kinds of new things, and may just make me more successful at the same time.

Back to this book.  I didn’t really know who Richard Branson was before I read the book.  And yes, I do live under a rock so don’t judge me.  I had heard of that crazy entrepreneur who did the balloon trip and who was trying to plan vacations to the moon, but I knew nothing of the Virgin companies or him personally.  I can say with all seriousness now that I find him completely delightful and want to be a business owner like him someday.

This book is for anyone involved in business, but I think anyone who would like to be a great leader should read it.  He gives very practical advice on how to do business better, greener, and with more integrity than any other book I have read so far.  He seems fairly honest and open about what makes his company both unique and fun to work for.  I found myself making lots of lists on how I want to do things differently as I setup my new business.  I was inspired to both keep reading and to keep thinking about ways to deliver value to any future customers and employees.  I put the link here to the book because I think everyone in business should read it, and I really do plan to have all my friends, family and employees read this book.  It will be a graduation gift I give out for at least the next couple of years, or until my next great read.

Loosing Weight – Adding Fresh Vegetables

My First Vegetable Garden

My First Vegetable Garden

Beginning Success

If you’ve been with me a while you know I am trying to loose at least two dress sizes, or about 20 pounds.  I will be happy with that.  If I can loose one more, I will be over the moon happy!  I am on the downward turn.  It is a slow process, but then I knew it would be.  I have lost about 7 or 8 pounds in a about as many weeks, which is a fine pace for me.

So far, I have adopted a very strict no sugar diet and added about 10,000 steps to my days.  I feel good and have made peace with changing my perspective on food.  I am trying very hard to see meals and food in general as what it is, a means to an end, not my happiness.  The only purpose of food in my life right now as sustenance.  For happiness, I am turning to hobbies like spending time with family, reading, writing, and now growing healthy things.

Fresh Vegetables

My newest step to becoming a much healthier weight is to grow some of my own food in a large 30-Inch container on my deck.  I will do some more in depth posts later about all that is wrong with our food supply and some of the debates I watch about that.  However, I don’t think anyone will disagree with the fact that growing your own food can be fun, is very good for you, and should cut your grocery bill a little.  So to me it is an exciting win/win/win situation.

Here is what I am growing to start:

I just planted the starters this week, so I will keep you posted on how my new hobby is going!

Friday Fun – A new business and random thoughts

weddings-sjpI’m starting a new business with my brother, finally.  We have been talking and planning for a good 2 years, but our jobs and schedules have kept us from being able to pull the trigger.  It seems the stars have finally aligned and we may be able to do that beginning in August.  And how do I know I should move forward?  Sarah Jessica Parker told me.  I’m kind of kidding, but both my brother and I, for very different reasons, LOVE SJP.  So when I went to buy my first official wedding magazine (we are starting an event planning business) and SHE was on the cover, I new it was serendipity!

After my magazine purchase I began a Pinterest search of all things

Sarah Silverman (Tribeca Film Festival) by Joan Garvin

Sarah Silverman (Tribeca Film Festival) by Joan Garvin

Event Planning and stumbled upon a neat website, which lead to another, and another.  But somehow I ended up at this interview with Cathy who is the author of the blog Poor Little it Girl.  This interview mentions a quote by Sarah Silverman that I can’t find anywhere else, but it really spoke to me this morning and I want to put it here to have it.  Cathy says “Sarah Silverman did an interview once and said, ‘Don’t clutter your life with stuff you can’t afford. Keep your overhead low. Get a car with good mileage. Work towards buying your apartment. Shop at Gap. Enough with obsessing over the latest bag. It’s a purse. It holds stuff. Get a backpack. You’re being ridiculous.’”

I love to shop, read, eat, cook, drink and basically buy stuff.  But in order to make my dreams come true, in order to start a business that I will love and work with people I love, I have to give stuff up.  I need to stop buying useless crap that means far more to others than it ever will to me.  Happiness can not be found in things, I have tried that and it leaves me sad and wanting more.  I want to do work I can be proud of that makes me feel alive, THAT is what I need to spend my time and money on.