Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Club – Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin

For our last book of 2013, my book club filled with fabulous mama-friends read a memoir titled Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy. It is a memoir that I wasn’t keen to read, but I am glad to share that I really enjoyed this book. Topic aside, the writing is funny, honesty, clear and completely relatable. She writes with an authentic voice that comes off educated and personable at the same time. I found nights where I didn’t want to put the book down. Hardy’s struggle with the way she was raised, the beliefs she cherished, and the life she wanted for herself is something that we can all relate to regardless of religious affiliation.

I admit, I felt skeptical about this book. The things I know, have heard about, and witnessed in my own life, from the Mormon Church are not things that I can say I support or agree with. Starting this book, I wondered if I would feel like her writing was attempting to convert, defend, or highlight the teachings. Yet, she didn’t. Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin is a book that will make you laugh and reflect on your own beliefs.

Her writing was beautifully honest about why the faith meant so much to her and why she felt the connection to her God. And she was also honest about her questions, concerns, and the issues that caused fissures in her concrete beliefs.

 
Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin is a book that will make you laugh and reflect on your own beliefs. Nicole Hardy’s writing is graceful in her struggle to remain true to herself and to her faith.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is Chapter 7. She starts the book with an Anais Nin quote.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight

in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

I read this and heard a loud mental yes! My whole body resonated with this quote. It was recognition of something that I’ve felt in my own life. The pressure to stay in a job or program that isn’t the right fit, to conform to family principles that aren’t my own, or simply the need to step outside of the norm to live an authentic life.

Have any of you experienced the feeling of needing to blossom out of your current existence?

~ jibean

PS – the next book is The Bride Price by Suzanne Popp. Join us and share your comments!

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Book Club – with the mama gut!

I love book club. I love to read. I love books. And usually there is wine and I love that too. It’s fantastic to have a book to read each month that grows me beyond my normal range of authors, children books, and gossip magazines.

{Fun fact: in UsWeekly, it was reported that even Gisele Bundchen belongs to a book club to feel like a “normal mom.” Although I’m not a supermodel, it’s nice to know we have something in common. :}

And my book club is full of supermoms and great friends. So, if you’re too busy for a book club or don’t know of one near you, I’m going to post my thoughts on our book each month and I’ll let you know what we’re reading next. Feel free to follow along and share your thoughts on the books, too, or just gleam ideas on what you might like to read next.

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge. credit caption and photo to Amazon.com

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. Photo caption and photo by Amazon.com

My review: This past month we read The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and met to discuss in early December. It’s a story about friendships that start at adolescence and change with them as the six Interestings evolve. This story looks at what happens when your dreams come true, when they don’t, how everyone struggles, and how the friendships can get you through. It’s well written, with wonderful word choices, and captures some of the adolescent attitude I’ve forgotten about. Wolitzer describes accurately the heartbreak of a teenage crush and how devastating it can be when your best friend won’t call you back. I loved the story and found it hard to put down some nights… One area that I wasn’t fond of was the way it ends. I felt like I was left hanging. I would have liked more closure, more specifics like the rest of the book was written, but the ending was more philosophical and reflective. I’d still recommend it to anyone looking for a great novel to curl up with this winter. Plus the description of hot days at summer camp made me laugh at the idea of humidity and mosquitoes since we’ve got snow.

Book for January meeting/review: Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy.

PS – If you’re looking for great children books, check out one of my mama-friend’s blogs, Itty Bitty Reader, and you’ll find wonderful ideas.

~jibean

Boundaries

I recently watched the movie Drop Dead Fred, an early 90’s movie, that was a key film in my childhood. It’s a hilarious movie, with some gross potty humor, and deeper meaning about believing in yourself, standing up for yourself, and being you even when loved ones don’t see the greatness in you.

Drop Dead Fred poster courtesy of IMDb.

Drop Dead Fred poster courtesy of IMDb.

Two things I realized about this movie after watching it 20+ years later as an adult: 1. It was made in Minnesota. I don’t know how I didn’t know that, I’m from there, but within the first fifteen minutes I saw locations from my childhood thru college. It made me homesick. 2. This movie, Drop Dead Fred, was very influential on me in terms of learning about boundaries.

In the movie, the mother is terrible and sometimes cruel to her daughter, Lizzie, in a controlling, manipulative way that you see in a series of back and forth flashback comparisons to her adult life. While some of the things that Drop Dead Fred says about the Mega B!tch are mean, throughout the film you begin to see that without him pointing out the awful treatment Lizzie is getting, she would have no one to contrast the emotional abuse. Though his attempts to elevate her self-worth and self-esteem are occasionally mean pranks; by the end of the film Drop Dead Fred has provided enough of a counter to her insecurities that she breaks free from two controlling, one-sided relationships and sets boundaries for herself on how she is willing to be treated in her life.

It was this movie that the first seeds were planted in my mind to hold true to myself, to trust deeply in who I am, and to protect that self-worth from those who would try to control, manipulate, or unconsciously challenge and change me. It is at a young age that I began establishing and believing in boundaries. It is up to each one of us to determine what we are okay with in relationships: romantic, parent, sibling, friendship, coworker. It is imperative that we firmly, yet kindly set the parameters for what we will and will not accept in our lives.

This becomes even more crucial as a parent. As a mom, I’ve had to face very hard, deeply painful confrontations with a father whose emotional intelligence is low and his self-focused-needs are high. My father choses to live in a way that I can tolerate individually, but cannot put my kids around. It’s not worth the risk. He also has a hurtful approach to relationships: holds a grudge, avoids conflict, and is unwilling to do anything he simply doesn’t want to do. I say this as someone who has been working to address our relationship for over ten years, attempted counseling, and had our last argument in 2011 when he decided I have too many rules (not to call after ten p.m., to be sober when visiting my kids, to not bring over friends to my house when we aren’t home, etc.)

Why am I writing about this today? Because I’ve had to make the really difficult decision that on our next visit home to Minnesota, we won’t see him. He hasn’t made an attempt to contact us since the last time we spoke at Thanksgiving 2012, at my aunt’s house, when he arrived at the last minute. No contact before the visit and nothing after. No birthday cards to my kids, postcards to see how they are, emails to wish them happy holidays. It’s one thing for he and I to have a challenging father-daughter relationship; however, not being a grandfather to two marvelous children is an active decision.

It became a question of how much do I have to cost myself emotionally. He is my father; because of him, I am alive, had a great childhood, was well taken care of and close to until I went away to college.

So, at what point am I doing myself more harm than any resulting good?

This year, I made the heartbreaking decision that I cannot work to fix the relationship any longer. It hurts to write this and it’s a grief that may never go away. But, I realized, the hurt it was causing me wasn’t getting me any closer to a semblance of the father I knew as a child. And that my boundaries needed to protect me from that. And I don’t want my kids to feel this hurt.

And, sometimes protecting yourself is really about protecting your children.

~ jibean

Fitness Confidential book review

I took a detour from my regular book club of my wonderful mama friends to meet up with PDX bloggers for a book club on Fitness Confidential by Vinnie Tortorich, written with Dean Lorey.

Vinnie is known as America’s Angriest Trainer, ultra athlete, cancer survivor, and I added: honest guy.

Dean is known for being a hilarious writer in Hollywood (think L.A., not Portland neighborhood) on shows like Arrested Development and soon-to-start The Crazy Ones (I’m excited about this new show! but I digress)

I’m known for loving fitness, always looking for new information, preferably the non-bullsh!t kind, on eating and exercising for optimal health and some good ole fat loss. I also love getting out and meeting new people, so the opportunity to meet up with some Portland-area bloggers from Cascadia Connect and hang out in a coffee shop, talking about a book, on a beautiful Friday evening, was definitely for me. Here’s us: The Mama Gut, Momsicle, Beeb Ashcroft (our fantastic organizer), Mostly Mommyhood, A Cloth Life, The Quirky Momma {not in order of appearance} #pdxbookclub

pdx book club Aug 2013

Back to the book, Fitness Confidential – at our book club, the vote was thumbs up this is a good book. But to me it’s more than a good book. It’s good advice. It’s simple advice. It’s clean advice. I feel like everywhere I turn there is a new gimmick, trick, exercise, diet, study, food group, food no-no; it is overwhelming.

Vinnie breaks it down into no-nonsense chapters with hunks of memoir thrown in and zippy one-liners he calls “Vinnieisms”. In fact, I started implementing the recommendations he made on how to maximize three one-hour workouts a week. Cardio, weights, which moves are worth the effort, etc. I appreciated his candor that you should always give yourself the full hour and that of course fours a week would be better than three. But, three is good. And the eating was a recommendation of two simple concepts: no sugar, no grains. He has logic, knowledge, reports, etc. that he put his time into reading and he’s been training clients in body-image obsessed Hollywood so I trust that it works.

Back to the personal anecdotes, I could have lived without the hookup stories, but if that’s part of his persona, alrighty. What I did appreciate was a chapter on the ultra races where he described a gentleman who is an amazing physical machine, but doesn’t look like your typical chiseled, tanned, uber athlete. And I liked it. I think it’s important to put out there, to the world, that a person’s appearance doesn’t equate their abilities. Being fit to lead doesn’t mean you have to look like a sports model.

After chatting about the book, a fellow mom and pdx blogger, Evelyn and I decided that Vinnie needs to write Fitness Confidential #2, the family guide. My biggest challenge is coming up with family meals and ready to go snacks and lunches for me to bring to work. It’s easy to say ‘make the time’, but it’s not just time. It’s what do kids eat, what do they like, what do they need, and do I want to spend my one hour of time between kids’ bedtime and my time cooking? My kids are great eaters and pretty enthusiastic about meat and veggies. Still, I’d love another no-nonsense book about implementing these strategies for a family with a toddler, preschooler, and a husband who can eat anything and loves noodles and nachos.

Fitness Confidential is a funny, fast read and if you have any interest in fitness, nutrition for fat loss, ultra races, leukemia, or silly personal-trainer-to-the-stars stories, check out this book.

fitness confidential book cover

~ jibean

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