Saturday, August 31, 2013

End of the Season--Reading Round Up

Well, here we are poised on the cusp of a whole new month, and the "unofficial" start of fall here in the States--Labor Day weekend. During which I will be, as usual, laboring. Ha.

I was thinking this morning of the books I've read this summer, the summer of rain, rain, and more rain. I've spent more time than usual indoors this year, getting cozy with either books or tv shows that provide some escape from the crappy weather. Here are some of the highlights of my summer reading list for anyone that might be interested:


Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day by Diane Ackerman.

This is a truly lovely, well written book done in my favorite format with regard to nature writing: essay-like chapters with subject matter arranged according to the wheel of the year. Each chapter flows beautifully into the next, with a keen eye for the wonder of the changing seasons outside the author's front door. Confession: I haven't finished this book; I've been saving the "fall" and "winter" chapters to read in the coming seasons. I plan to savor each one, and consider them a treat to be doled out slowly as the year unfolds outside my window. Highly recommended.

Switch: how to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Wow. That about sums up my feelings about this book. Ordinarily a book that is classified as "management and leadership" wouldn't ever catch my eye. I think I only found this book because I got a free sample of it on my new e-reader tablet, and once I was a few pages in I was fascinated.  This is an insightful exploration of how the rational mind and emotional mind are often in conflict. Overcoming this conflict (whether it's inside of an individual, group, or corporation) can bring about big changes, fast. Applied in the right way, the principles can lead to wonderful accomplishments. Some of the examples in this book literally left me with my mouth hanging open. There was a group of villages in Vietnam where a group of mothers were taught ways to make small changes that ended up reducing childhood malnutrion in the villages by 65% in only six months. There was a hospital that reduced deadly medication errors by 47% with a couple of clever (and simple) changes. The entire book was truly inspiring! For a psychology/sociology nerd like myself, this was pure heaven. Four stars!

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

Whew. I admit it. I haven't finished this one, not even close. I'm only halfway in to this massive (840 page) tome. I like it. I really do. The book is about two magicians working to bring back magic to Great Britain in the beginning of the 19th century. They join forces with the government against the French in the Napoleonic Wars, as well as meddling with other affairs closer to home. I especially love the chapters so far about a "thistle haired gentleman" (really a sinister fairy) that is essentially haunting (and driving mad) a young wife and one of her servants in the circles in which Norrell and Strange move. It's a fun read. But. There are about 50 pages worth of footnotes in this book. Footnotes are on practically every page, and they're not much more than rambling observations and minutiae that don't advance the story line any. It breaks up the flow of reading when you constantly have to flip to the back and look up a footnote. And I can't stand to not look them up. So for me, this book feels like a chore to read. I also think it would be a better book for the wintertime. Most of it is set in cold, dark days (in London), giving it a distinctly winter vibe. I may put it aside for now and begin again in November or December.

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

This is a novel based on a tiny but interesting bit of U.S. history. In an 1854 peace conference with the government of president Ulysses S. Grant, a Cheyenne chief requested a gift of 1000 white women as brides for his men. This book imagines what would have happened if the government had secretly agreed, and gathered volunteers from among women's prisons and mental institutions (promising them pardons and freedom if they agreed to marry a Cheyenne man and stay with the tribe for two years afterward). This is the story of May Dodd, a woman imprisoned in a mental institution by her upper class family for cohabitating with (and bearing illegitimate children for) a lower class man. May jumps at the chance to have her freedom back after two years, and ends up being married to a Cheyenne chief named Little Wolf. The story is told as a series of journal entries and follows May as she and her fellow "volunteers" are secretly gathered from around Chicago and sent by train to the tribal lands of Wyoming to marry the "savages".  The story moves fast, the writing is good, and the research the author did into Native American culture was obviously above average. Not a book that will change your life, but a good late summer read. Three stars.

Has anyone read any good books lately? Or have recommendations for good fall reading?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bloggers and personality type?

Have you ever taken a Myers-Briggs personality assessment?

For anyone that's unfamiliar with it, it's a personality rating system that assigns you one of sixteen possible types based on where you fall on the following dichotomies:

Extraversion (E) – (I) Introversion
Sensing (S) – (N) Intuition
Thinking (T) – (F) Feeling
Judging (J) – (P) Perception

  I've taken it recently as part of my preparation for finding a new job. It's interesting, to say the least. I am apparently an INTJ, with percentages of: I(56%), N(62%), T(25%), and J(1%). You could say I'm perfectly balanced on that last metric, but I show strong preferences otherwise. Then I started to wonder: do bloggers share some personality traits? I'm curious, so I'm linking to a quick test you can take online. It will calculate your type and give you a detailed description of it as well. Lots of fun!

If you take the test, I would absolutely love it if you would leave a comment here telling us your type! Let's compare personality traits and see what (if anything) we have in common!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Waiting out August

What a soggy, gray, depressing month August has been. I'm ready to see the end of it.

We've had record rain this summer, and I blame some of my current funk on the endlessly wet and gloomy weather. While the usual August heat hasn't been as much of a problem this year, I'd happily trade hot dry sunshine for this sodden sorry mess! I especially dislike the constant feeling of dampness that has crept into the house and always seems to be on my skin. And the swarms of mosquitoes outside. Ugh.

And my job search seems to be stalled. I've only found one opening that was even remotely interesting. I went all out to apply. I sent my application and a resume (the resume I spent hours and hours revamping) by both email and "snail" mail, with carefully written cover letters. I even had one of my references send a nice letter of recommendation for me. Still, I haven't heard anything back, and I don't know if I will. All I can do is wait and keep my fingers crossed. Nothing else has shown itself yet. I feel stuck, and that along with the awful weather just makes me tired. All I feel like doing lately is taking naps (often with a book in hand) and moping around the house.

So I'll be glad to see August end, and the arrival of September and true fall. Hopefully the weather will dry up and the sun will shine, and it will be cooler either way. Some fresh air and exercise will  probably do me good, once I can stand to go outdoors again! As for the job situation, it looks like I'll just have to be patient. Maybe the changing season will bring some fresh opportunities to the local job market. And I can't wait for all things autumn this year--apples and pumpkins and fall flowers, scarecrows and harvest festivals and chilly nights.

Anyone else ready for fall?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer breakfast

This morning I had the ultimate summer time breakfast: a fried egg, cheddar, and fresh tomato sandwich made on a sesame-seed bun, pan grilled in butter and slathered with a generous smear of Duke's mayonnaise. With a couple of juicy sweet plums for dessert. Heavenly.

It won't be long before breakfasts featuring fresh garden tomatoes and summer fruit are a distant memory. August is marching right along.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Job hunting

Another Monday morning is here, and the job search continues. I made some good progress over the weekend: found my last resume buried in some documents on the computer (it needs updated, but at least I don't have to do a whole new one!), reconnected via LinkedIn to an old boss of mine (the one who awarded me "store manager of the year" at my last job, so she's a great reference!), and made some new contacts through a current coworker that should be helpful at some of the places I'm interested in working.

My husband is meeting today with an aquarium client who happens to be a school principal and on the school board in this area, and he's going to ask if I can meet with him later this week to discuss some possible district office administrative jobs that I'm interested in. Gregg has a good relationship with this man, so hopefully he will be willing to help me out, as a reference if nothing else. I have a feeling that personal contacts will be the key to success in my search.

Now if I could only find that perfect job! I'm combing the want ads every other day, asking around, and doing anything I can think of to get my name "out there". I would dearly love to be out of the retail scene before the holiday season. Surely if I keep applying myself something good will eventually come my way!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Easy Sunday afternoon

Today is sunny and hot, a very typical early August day for this area. The relentless rain showers we were getting throughout the summer have finally slowed down. We had record amounts of rain in July, over 15 inches, and also a record number of days with measureable precipitation. Soggy, is how I would describe this summer so far! I'm glad we're getting stretches of days without rain, now that August is here. Almost every afternoon we've had bright blue skies filled with puffy, whiter-than-snow clouds and there's been a good breeze blowing. That's what today is like, and I'm glad the weather turned out so nice! I have plans later on.

A few friends are stopping by for a little mini cocktail party out on the patio. I plan to serve rum drinks (coconut rum mixed with pineapple juice and crushed ice) and fruit salad. Gus (who's no longer a puppy) will be coming along to play with Ginger. Gus' mom is also bringing along her 5 year old nephew, which was unexpected. He called her this morning and begged to come spend the night with her (he loves his auntie!) and she can't resist him. So she asked if she could bring him with her, and of course I said yes. I'm going to make him his own little "virgin" cocktail: pineapple juice over crushed ice with maraschino cherries and an umbrella straw! There will be lots of snacks, and he can run around in the backyard with Ginger and Gus while the adults talk. It should be fine.

I've kept my party very small and uncomplicated this time. The food and drinks are simple and mostly store-bought. I didn't feel up to my usual huge effort, and I don't want to be half exhausted and still getting ready when the guests arrive! Instead, I plan to take it easy and enjoy a nice summer afternoon with my friends. Stress free.

Thursday, August 8, 2013