Book Club

Chasing my muse.

  This month the From Left to Write Book Club is reading The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.  The book explores the life of Monsieur Perdue, the owner of a bookstore that is housed on a boat, which he calls The Literary Apothecary.  One day, after learning that the woman whom he has been heartbroken over for twenty years was dying from cancer when she left him, he decided to hoist anchor and sail his book barge down the river. 

One of his companions on the boat is a young author, Max Jordan, who was quick to fame with his first book, and has seemed to be hiding from everyone ever since.  It was said in the book that Max Jordan has lost his muse. That he is searching for her. 

“‘He’s lost his muse, Signor Salvatore.  Max made a pact with her and gave up his normal life. But his muse has gone.  Now he doesn’t have a life-either a normal one or an artistic one. And so he’s on a quest to find her.'”  – Jean Perdu, The Little Paris Bookshop. 

I have been chasing my muse for years and years.  For those of you who have followed me for a few years, may remember a post I wrote last year about being overloaded and out of tune.  I was so optimistic about getting my life straight and being able to write again. But, just as everyone with older children has told me, as they get older, it just gets more hectic. My kids have something every night of week.  I have a day job now too and am finally able to contribute to the household financially, and on a consistent basis.  I still have my job at the dance studio, but it’s only on Sunday now. So, with working six days a week, managing a household, and running the kids all over creation, some things have either taken a back seat or been eliminated from my life altogether.

As a result, my muse is still missing.  She went away a long time ago, and hasn’t returned.  I ache for her; physically, emotionally, spiritually.  I long for the time when the words would flow and the characters would speak to me.  I was hoping she would return now that some of the stress over the finances has been alieviated. Instead, she has been replaced with exhaustion. 

“‘Maybe he didn’t love his muse enough? If so, he’ll have to ask for her hand all over again.'” – Salvatore Cuneo, The Little Paris Bookshop. 

Did I not love my muse enough? Perhaps not.  Like my old high school best friend, she took a backseat when the children came along, got tired of waiting around, and left.  Maybe one day she will come back.  (Although my friend never did). Until then, I guess I will just continue to pine for her from afar. 

This is an original ROSCMM post.  All opinions are that of Jennifer herself unless otherwise stated. This post was inspired by the novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, where Monsieur Perdu–a literary apothecary–finally searches for the woman who left him many years ago.. Join From Left to Write on October 8th as we discuss The Little Paris Bookshop. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Categories: Book Club, From Left to Write Book Club | 5 Comments

A Challenge, are you up to it?

This week, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my Aunt Millie.

Aunt Millie (in red), my mom, my two kids, and me on the day of Little Miss's christening.

Aunt Millie (in red), my mom, my two kids, and me on the day of Little Miss’s christening.

Aunt Millie is my mom’s middle sister. She’s the aunt who never married, who lived with and cared for my grandmother until the day she died. She was the fun aunt.  Growing up, she was the one who got down on her knees and played with us and laughed with us.  She’s my brother’s godmother at baptism and my sponsor for Confirmation.  She is very near and dear to our family.

Sadly, Aunt Millie is succumbing to age.  Now that she lives alone, she’s become a sort of shut-in.  She screens her calls and doesn’t go out.  She’s stopped taking her medication and seeing her doctors. She’s showing signs of dementia, forgetting things from minute to minute.

And she lives in a different state.  With my mom and I being her closest family.

With her health deteriorating, my mom and I have decided that it is time to move her out of her house and into an assisted living facility here in New York.  These last few days I have been touring these facilities with Aunt Millie, showing her the best ones within her price range.  We’ve finally chosen one where she will be best cared for and we believe that she is excited to get started. She knows that she can’t handle her home anymore, she knows that she’s not in the best of health anymore. We believe she is ready to move on and part with her former way of life. And we couldn’t be happier for her.

Watching my beloved aunt go from independent working woman to the forgetful, sweet, simple soul she is now has been so devastating.  My grandmother had dementia before she passed, and it seems as though Aunt Millie is following in her footsteps.  And living alone where your family is over and hour away is scary.  I hold my breath every time I call her, waiting to hear her pick up the phone.  When she doesn’t answer I fret and worry until she calls me back. I wish she was close enough that I could just hop in the car and go to her house. But with my children dependent upon me for everything, it’s near impossible to take a day off.

Where am I going with this, you may ask.  This month the From Left To Write book club is revisiting a past reading, Thrive, by Arianna Huffington.  In it, she issues a challenge to her readers to slow down, unplug, get more sleep or practice yoga or meditation.  Kim, our fearless leader and head book nerd at FLTW is encouraging us to take one of those suggestions and attempt a seven day challenge.

Having already given up Facebook for Lent, I have decided that my challenge will be to take better care of my brain and my memories. Alzheimers.org.uk suggests that dementia may be hereditary, so I want to start taking some steps to keep my brain healthy so that maybe I won’t forget who my children are, or where I am, or when the last time was that I ate when I’m in my 70’s.  Maybe I won’t become like Aunt Millie, alone and maybe afraid because she can’t remember where she is or how she got there.

The Mayo Clinic states that although there is no sure-fire way to prevent dementia, there are some things you can do to help.

  • Keep your mind active.Mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles and word games, and memory training may delay the onset of dementia and help decrease its effects.
  • Be physically and socially active. Physical activity and social interaction may delay the onset of dementia and reduce its symptoms.
  • Quit smoking. Some studies have shown smoking in middle age and older may increase your risk of dementia and blood vessel (vascular) conditions. Quitting smoking may reduce your risk.
  • Lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure may lead to a higher risk of some types of dementia. More research is needed to determine whether treating high blood pressure may reduce the risk of dementia.
  • Pursue education. People who have spent more time in formal education appear to have a lower incidence of mental decline, even when they have brain abnormalities.

    Researchers believe that education may help your brain develop a strong nerve cell network that compensates for nerve cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Maintain a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet is important for many reasons, but a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in certain fish and nuts, may promote overall health and lower your risk of developing dementia.

So, here I go.  Wish me luck.  I’ll let you know how I do in about 40 years.  And I challenge you to take care of your brain, preserve your memories, and live a long, healthy, and happy life.

In the meantime, I can’t wait to get Aunt Mille into her new place to my family and I can enjoy her company again and maybe, with her finally getting medical care, she’ll come back and we’ll get a glimpse of that wonderful independent woman again.

This is an original ROSCMM post. This post was inspired by Thrive by Arianna Huffington who challenges women unplug and sleep more to create a balanced life. Join From Left to Write on March 19th as we discuss Thrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

thrive

Copyright 2015 Mastermind Mommy

Categories: Book Club, Family, From Left to Write Book Club | 4 Comments

#FromLefttoWrite Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: 50th Anniversary Celebration

This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world famous candy emporium, and First Book, a non-profit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year long international celebration.

Head on over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more!  For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book.  Then join From Left to Write on July 24th as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  As a book club member, I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-by-Roald-Dahl-666x1024This summer has been a crazy one…  We’re in the process of moving into our new space so everything is upside down in our home life right now, and every weekend there is something else going on.  Today, our friends are getting married, and I’m just too excited to sleep, so here I am writing my post.  Next weekend we prepare for my son to go to Boy Scout camp for a week and the following weekend, we go to Rhode Island to visit my aunt and uncle and retrieve my son from said camp.

One thing we’ve been able to make some time for though is reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  After dinner, the kids and I would sit down together on the couch and read about Charlie’s and the other children’s adventure in the chocolate factory with the eccentric Mr. Wonka.  Oftentimes, I would attempt (unsuccessfully) to sing the Oompa Loompa’s songs and speak in an English accent any time Veruca Salt opened her ungrateful, spoiled, little mouth.  It was bad.  Really really bad.  But fun.  So much fun.

As we read, I couldn’t help comparing the book to the two movies made, based on the book.  Have you read this classic?  Which movie do you think is more true to the book?

When my son was little, he was obsessed for a short time with both movies.  The Gene Wilder version of the movie we called “The Original Version”, while the remake, staring my boyfriend Johnny Depp, was called “The Creepy Willy Wonka”.   Everything he saw he related to the movies. When we would drive to New Jersey to visit my aunt, we’d pass the factories just before the New Jersey Turnpike. Big Boy would point to the smoke stacks and shout, “Look Mommy, it’s Willy Wonka’s factory!”  When we’d see a squirrel in the backyard, he’d tell me that the squirrel was collecting nuts to bring to Mr. Wonka.  Sometimes we’d make up a whole back story about the squirrel and how he was leaving his family to go to work in the chocolate factory.

It was during thA boy in all his chocolate glory!at time as well, that we took him to Hershey Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, my boy is now more in to video games than chocolate factories and silly games with mommy, but my daughter is just learning the joys of books my Roald Dahl.  I can’t wait to read more with her.

I think reading with my children is a wonderful thing.  In our crazy world of scouting events, dance classes, playdates, and birthday parties, I’m so glad we were able to find time to sit and go on this adventure together. I think another adventure is in order soon.  Perhaps James and the Giant Peach?

Copyright Mastermind Mommy 2014

Categories: Book Club, From Left to Write Book Club | 1 Comment

To work or not to work, that is the question??

I’ve been a stay at home mom for seven years.  (Unless you count the three years I spent running my husband’s pet store with my toddler son at my side. AND the four years I’ve been selling Tastefully Simple.)  I’ve often wondered how things would be different if I’d had a career, something that would put that Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing to work instead of just being a pretty piece of paper on my wall.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love being home with my kids.  I love that we are fortunate enough that I don’t HAVE to get a job.  I love that I get to be there for every moment, every milestone, but most of my friends work outside the home and I often look at them with longing…

I wonder if I’m missing something.  The camaraderie, the atmosphere, the ADULT conversations.  There’d be no Dora, Diego, Backyardigans, or Yo Gabba Gabba (or less of them at least).  There’d be no potty training, baby talk, class trips, or daytime lunches with my best friend(or less of them too).

I wouldn’t be expected to come to EVERY presentation and parade at school. ( I DO go to EVERY presentation and parade at school because that’s how I roll.)  I wouldn’t feel bad because I’m a member of the PTA but don’t do anything with/for them.  (I do feel bad…  I’m not going to do anything about it, but I feel bad.)  I wouldn’t feel guilty about not going on EVERY field trip on those stupid ginormous  yellow school buses that have awful shocks. ( I made the mistake once to ride in the very back with my son and his classmates while I was about 7 months pregnant with my daughter.  Let’s just say that I’m lucky I didn’t give birth right there in the back of the bus.)

BUT I would have to have my kids in some sort of child care.  Someone else would be there for my kids during the day for little milestones like when my daughter goes potty all by herself, or my son gets 100% on his grammar test.    Someone else would sit with my son as he does his reading homework, someone else would have to sing my daughter to sleep during nap time.

HOWEVER, millions of women kiss their families goodbye and go to work every day (including some of my closest friends).

They do it because they have to.

They do it because they want to.

And they’re still there for most of it.

They’re still there for little things like parades and presentations.  They still come home and cook dinner for their family.  They still manage impeccable households, complete with laundry, pets, and soccer games.  They still get the things done around the house that take me all week to get done.  And they still get up every morning and do it all over again.  Some of them even consider going to work their break from the insanity that is their home life!

Back when my husband’s business was coming to a close, we had “the talk”.  The store was closing, should I get a job and look for child care for our then four year old son?  We both agreed that my job would only be paying for the child care we found for him.  We decided I would stay home until he went to school.

Enter baby #2. 

So I’m home for another three years.  Hopefully by the time my daughter goes to school, I’ll have this blogging thing down and I won’t HAVE to get a job outside of my home.  Either that or we’ll win the lotto and then we can BOTH stay home.

I’d better dust off my resume!!  🙂

This post was written as part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group Book Club.  It was inspired by the book Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half Insane Working Mom by Kristin Van Ogtrop which I received free from the publisher for the purpose of this book club discussion.

Categories: Book Club, SV Mom's Group, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Picky, picky…

I think I might have the pickiest eater on earth.  My son is the biggest pain the the behind when it comes to food.  He takes an American Cheese sandwich with him to school everyday.  No crusts.  If there is even a spec of brown from the crust of the bread on there, he will find it and pick it off.  There can’t be any green in his food either.  No parsley, no basil, nothing.  And don’t even THINK about trying to give him a vegetable.  The closest thing to a vegetable he will eat is tomato sauce and tomatoes are fruits.  No carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, nothing.  And fruit?  Yeah, right…  Bananas and applesauce but only if I beg him.

On the other hand, he will eat chips and brownies like they are going out of style.  I can squeeze in a cheese stick sometimes, but not a lot.

He’s very sensitive to textures and can’t have any food touching. (he gets that from me.) But he’s also sensitive to strong flavors and spicy flavors and he will gag and throw up at a moment’s notice. (he gets that from his father)

My husband is a very picky eater as well.  He won’t eat anything off a bone.  He claims he was traumatized as a kid because his parents took him to pig roasts where they had the whole pig roasting over an open fire, head and all.  So now when he sees meat on a bone he envisions the animal it once belonged to and it turns him off.  And there can’t be a speck of fat on his meat either.  He likes his chicken cutlets thin and his pizza well done.  His burgers MUST have American cheese on them and no other cheese, not cheddar or swiss and the only time he will eat mozzarella is if it’s on a pizza, in a Parmesan dish or in a deep fried stick.  And he won’t eat fish.  AT. ALL.  He can keep them in a tank and catch them on the end of a hook, but he won’t eat them.

Now, I admit, I’m not the best eater in the world either.  I’m picky to a point, but I’m learning to get over it and try new things.  I don’t like a lot of vegetables, but I do eat some.  More than certain seven year olds I know…  And I eat fish, but only certain shellfish and fillet.

My daughter will eat just about anything so we’re good with that.  Last week she told me that something I made was “disgusting” and I’m all like “Where did you learn that??  You’re only two!”.  Mmmhmm.  She’s two.

Anyway, even though my son won’t eat a lot of stuff, he likes to help me in the kitchen.  He takes a lot of pride in the fact that he helped make a box of brownies with me once and they were the BEST BROWNIES EVER.  We have yet to be able to duplicate them.  So I got this book in the mail called Top 100 Finger Foods for Kids by Annabel Karmel and in it is a brownie recipe.  We’re gonna try it.  It looks good.  That and the French Toast with caramelized bananas.  And lots of other stuff.

In actuality, I sat with the boy with the cookbook and we flipped through the entire thing looking at all the recipes trying to find one we could do together.  Every recipe we looked at he was all “No.”  “Not this one.”  “Ew.” “I don’t like fish.”  And I’m all, “How can you not like fish? You’ve never tried it!”  I almost gave up when I found the brownies and his eyes lit up.

So, picture this if you will…  It’s Saturday afternoon.  My daughter has FINALLY gone down for a nap and I’m itching to make these brownies.  Hubby’s gone out for the afternoon for a billiards tournament, so it’s just me and the boy.  I break out the cookbook and suddenly he doesn’t want to help.  Really??  He’s tired, he’s bored… “Ok, Mom, I’ll help.”  I think he stirred the batter once and cracked the eggs.  After that he lost interest.  I managed to get him to read the recipe to me while I ran around the kitchen.   And of course, as soon as the brownies are in the oven, he’s gone.  Back to the computer, the video games, or the TV.  I made the topping by myself, not even bothering to ask him to help for fear of a tug o’ war between him and lego.com.  And the brownies?  They were good.  Maybe not worth the fighting, and the nagging, and the constant “What’s next Jonathan??” , but they were GOOD.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll attempt the French Toast with Caramelized Bananas…  only his time without the help.

This post was written as part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group Book Club.  It was inspired by the book “Top 100 Finger Foods for Kids” by Annabel Karmel which I received free from the publisher for the purpose of this book club discussion.

Categories: Book Club, I swear they are trying to kill me..., SV Mom's Group | 3 Comments

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