Mutant Goals

Well, this turned out to come to fruition a lot sooner than I’d expected. I just got thinking about things I would like to do that are somewhat measurable and in the short to mid-term range. The fingers started typing and out came a list of 17 goals which I tried to make as SMART as possible.

I think perhaps I could do some more thinking and generate some goals that are more long-term in their nature but right now, I’m having a tough time with those.

As you will see, one of my goals does relate directly to the blog. I think if I keep revisiting my goals, at the very least through this blog, I have a better chance of keeping them in focus and therefore give them less of a chance to wander off.

Without further ado, I present

 MutantSupermodel Life Goals as of September 20, 2010:

  1. Spend 15 minutes in each room searching for items to donate to the Veterans pick-up on September 29, 2010.
  2. Try the money envelope system September 30, 2010 for three months (December 31, 2010).
  3. Create a Christmas budget by October 15, 2010 and stick to it.
  4. Update the blog at least once a week for the next four weeks (October 22, 2010).
  5. Complete requested crocheted baby cape by October 27, 2010.
  6. Schedule monthly donations pick-ups starting October 29, 2010 for the next six months (March 29, 2011).
  7. Commit to another reading project for 2011 and have details worked out by December 15, 2010.
  8. Send Christmas cards Friday, December 17, 2010.
  9. Complete MutantEldest’s Mario Bros. blanket by December 25, 2010.
  10. Complete 26 in 2010 project allowing for 5 substitutions (i.e. skipping certain letters) by December 31, 2010.
  11. Continue tracking spending in Excel for the next four months (January 31, 2011).
  12. Have registration fees ready to be paid by February 15, 2011 so my parents don’t have to pay it again.
  13. Go on a family trip in the next six months (March 2011) and a kid-free trip in the six months after that (October 2011).
  14. Re-commit to doing laundry every other day for the next six months (March 25, 2011).
  15. Continue planning Girls’ Night for next six months (April 2011).
  16. Lose 12 pounds in 12 months (September 25, 2011).
  17. Pay off credit cards by December 2011, one month ahead of schedule.

P.S. Cheerleaders are welcome. Apply via the comments 😉

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I is for Isherwood

I think it’s worth mentioning I haven’t lost interest in my 26 in 2010 project despite the fact I should be wrapping up an “O” book this weekend and here I am posting an “I” review. Mostly I’ve had issues with the whole timing thing at the library. I don’t want to buy any books for this experiment but there are some books I really want to read and evidently, a lot of other people want to read those books too. Sometimes, the timing works, most of the time though it doesn’t. What this means is I haven’t only read nine books instead of the 14 I should have completed by now. I’ve actually read 13 although I feel like I read more than that and am simply forgetting what I’ve read already. No matter. What I’m doing is reading the books in whatever order they arrive instead of the calendar’s dictates. I write the review and when it’s time, I publish. The problem is technically, I am behind schedule by a couple of books and the books I’ve read have mostly been towards the end of the alphabet. But, I do promise to carry this whole project to fruition and plan on catching up big time in the next couple of weeks. I do need a suggestion for a “J” book because I just can’t find something fascinating. By a “J” book, I meant a book that is written by an author whose last name starts with a “J”. Extra points if you give me something from the, er, romantic (?) area which is a genre I haven’t really delved into much.

But really this post is about Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man which recently gave birth to a Tom Ford directed film. I haven’t seen the film but now that I’ve read the book I think maybe I will—with low expectations. I’m not saying the book is bad. It isn’t. It’s just extremely… light with an attempt to be taken serious which I guess is a great reflection of the main character. In this way, I found it very charming and I’m pretty sure I would absolutely love to know my very own eccentric George. This is the book summer reading’s all about—extremely light and short it goes beautifully with an ocean view. I am surprised someone decided this was film-worthy but then again, I really shouldn’t be considering toy lines and 80’s cartoons are modern movie inspirations. Again, I’m not dismissing it at all. The writing is smooth as the scotch George is fond of. And the characters are interesting. If anything, perhaps the book is just too short becoming a brief pleasant memory versus a deeply impactful encounter.

Right now I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. See? All out of order!

H is for Hely

I am, at my very core, quite the sarcastic person. I appreciate very much the use of a sharp tongue especially when it’s regarding a topic I couldn’t agree with more. So given my relish for a good tongue-lashing combined with my adoration of literature multiplied with my growing horror at the modern interpretations of “literature” it shouldn’t be much of a shock to find out I absolutely positively adore Steve Hely’s “How I Became a Famous Novelist”. I devoured this book. It made me giggle like an imp over and over again. I wanted to read every other passage out loud to anyone who would listen.

Hely absolutely positively completely and voraciously dismantles the modern literature marketplace. No one is safe– not publishers, not published authors, not unpublished authors, not one genre. Hely comes off as desperate and frustrated as I feel and this is a delicious pairing. If you enjoy reading, read this book. If you enjoy writing, read this book. If you take yourself too seriously, read this book. If you don’t take yourself seriously enough, read this book. If you keep saying you should read more but can’t really find anything captivating, READ THIS BOOK. This book is endlessly fun and overwhelmingly witty. I’d tell you what it’s about but the title does so quite solidly.

You may or may not be aware but there is something very horribly wrong with books today and as Hely writes, no one’s really sure just what it is or how the heck to fix it. Hely doesn’t either but he sure as hell is sounding the alarm. I wish there was more that I could elaborate but it’s really just as simple as saying this is a really great book, especially if you’re a big book nerd like me!

G is for Gilman

Susan Jane Gilman’s “Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven” is one of Amazon’s Top 100 books of 2009 and I can understand why– except for one teeny tiny little thing that while Amazon and others clearly have no issue overlooking, really sort of ruined the book for me.

First, the basics. This is Gilman’s recounting of a trip to China she took in the 1980’s with a friend from college. Gilman constantly stresses how vastly different China was at the time of this trip– it’s isolation and positively xenophobic attitude being especially emphasized. The story is a good one. This is a crazy whirlwind adventure filled with exotic everything– characters, settings, relationships, languages, and experiences. You can really fly through this book shaking your head at Gilman and her friend’s naivete. You relish in the sense of danger pervasive through the pages. And the entire time, just when things get a little too wild and unbelievable, you remember “This is a memoir. This really happened!” and the magic remains. Until the end.

I have read many a book absolutely ruined with a bad ending but what I experienced when I finished Gilman’s book has been a unique experience for me. The thing about Gilman’s story is that it is not simply her story. As a matter of fact, there is another main character in this book and she is arguably absolutely key to the entire thing. For me then, the story started to take on a very bitter taste when the other main character, Claire, vanishes. Gilman describes the very wealthy Claire being whisked away by her family upon their return from China. This isn’t even where I started to break with the book. It’s later in the afterword when Gilman makes it a point to flesh out some of the minor characters in the story that she also explains what happened to Claire– she has no idea. According to Gilman, she never heard from Claire or her family ever again. A search through Google and alumni directories proved fruitless. And right there, my experience of “Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven” completely changed.

You see, through the book Gilman is, in my opinion, sort of harsh on Claire. I went with it though figuring this must be something they look back on and laugh over in a sort of “Wow we were really young and dumb weren’t we?” sort of way. But once it set in that Claire had no input in this story, I have to say the tone suddenly seemed sort of bitter and, at times, even resentful. In a sense, I felt that the story is suddenly quite unfair and that Gilman is almost borderline taking advantage of Claire’s situation to tell a story that really isn’t uniquely hers to tell especially because it is Claire’s experience that becomes highly pivotal to Gilman’s experience of China. And so I feel almost duped. I’m not dismissing Gilman’s book as a fraud– I’m sure it isn’t. However, I do feel it is unfair. Gilman concludes the reason she couldn’t find Claire must simply be because Claire does not want to be found. I strongly disagree with that assertion and counter with the fact that perhaps Gilman doesn’t want Claire found. It seems almost as if Gilman needed some sort of closure with what happened in China and wrote this book as a means to achieve that. To some extent, I think she gave herself that feeling and doesn’t want to risk her little bubble popping. They say that in life there is always one side of the story, the other side of the story, and somewhere in the middle is the truth. Where some memoirs or autobiographies make an effort to flesh the truth out as best as they can by involving both sides, this one does not. For most people this is clearly not an issue. But for me, it really ruined what I thought was quite a marvelous tale.

F is for Finkel

Last week I finished up David Finkel’s non-fiction work, The Good Soldiers. The book took me much longer to get through than I anticipated because it absolutely weighed heavy on the heart. Finkel was an embedded reporter with a batallion in Iraq in 2007. This is their story and it is a difficult one but a worthy read.

If there was a mandatory reading list for Americans, The Good Soldiers should be on it. The writing is simple. As a matter of fact, it’s almost too simple. The tragedies and insanities of war are relayed with such a high level of frankness, it’s practically impossible to forget this is a true story. You want to get lost in description and mood but forget it, Finkel doesn’t give you a break. And why should he? It’s something not afforded to his comrades. The 15 months of the 2-16’s deployments are presented to you in a devastating matter-of-fact manner as if Finkel himself is trying to smother his own emotions.

The only betrayal to how Finkel perhaps views the war is the clever strategy of beginning each chapter with an excerpt of whatever speech former President Bush delivered the month he is covering in that chapter. Doing so, he creates a complete disparity between the reality of the 2-16’s experience and the President’s interpretation of the situation in Iraq as presented to the American people.

The story is incredible and reminds the reader there are indeed remarkable people in this world. There are also very damaged individuals roaming among us who served us well and deserve our care and attention.

On a related note: If you read The Good Soldiers, or even if you don’t, and are moved by the service of these VERY young men and women and would like to reach out and help in some way, I cannot recommend AnySoldier enough.The soldiers greatly appreciate letters from home especially notes or drawings from our nation’s children. If you can do a little more, they can always use care packages as we are not equipped to handle supplying them adequately.

Next book on my list which is waiting for me at my local library: Susan Gilman’s Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

E is for Eggers

The latest book I’ve inhaled in my 26 in 2010 quest was Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Eggers retells the experience of one man just before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina.

This is a non-fiction story written with a lot of empathy for the Zeitoun family. You can feel how touched Eggers was by this family’s experience through the pages even though Eggers does an excellent job of letting his subjects speak for themselves. Even the Zeitoun family does quite an honorable check of avoiding rantings and angry dialogue.

A lot of things happened as a result of Hurricane Katrina. So many that it is simply impossible to get a full understanding of what really unfolded in New Orleans before, during, and after. The Zeitoun’s story was quite honestly unexpected for me personally. I also found it to be quite shaking for many of the same reasons Mrs. Zeitoun seems to be grappling with to this very day– how on earth did this happen in the United States of America?

Eggers and the Zeitouns steer clear of assigning blame. As a matter of fact, their lawsuit is against several entities acknowledging how vast the scope of this disaster is. At the same time Eggers shows how the American system completely fragmented, he also shows true resilience of the American spirit. This story is very touching and extremely inspirational. Defintely another very pleasant surprise in my project.

D is for de Fombelle

I bet you thought my 26 in 2010 project got shelved. Well, not really. It was just paused and I’m working on getting right back to where I need to be (which is G for those of you who are curious).

For my D book, I chose Toby Alone by French author Timothee de Fombelle. This is a Young Adult novel but more along the serious lines of Harry Potter than the frippery of Twilight. In other words, you will completely forget this is a Young Adult novel except for the fact the main characters are teenagers.

The story of Toby Alone is the story of a world of people who at their tallest reach 2 millimeters in height. Pause. Consider that. Do you know what 2 millimeters is? Black ants, the tiny ones, are about that size. Toby’s people inhabit a Tree. That is the extent of their world. They know nothing of anything outside of their Tree beyond rumours of the violent Grass people. Rumors of life beyond the Tree or even other trees are nothing more than legends. Toby’s world is turned upside down when his father and mother are jailed. Toby’s father is a great scientist in the Tree whose research does not mesh well with very wealthy and powerful figures.

This is, of course, quite the commentary on society, the environment, politics, greed, and corruption. Beyond that, the imagery is stunning. De Fombelle’s descriptions of the various parts of the Tree are breathtaking and easy to fall into. The pace is good and quick and the various characters are interesting despite some of their more stereotypical or predictable attributes. The ending is hardly that of tidy packages.

This is absolutely a great book to read gearing up to Earth Day with your middle school or high school child. You’ll both enjoy the reading experience and the discussion opportunities are endless.